We Did Everything Right and My Daughter Got COVID-19 Anyway

We did everything right. We’ve been quarantining since March 2020. We maks up when we go out. Sanitizer is always on hand. No in-person association with friends or family indoors, and six feet apart when we do see them outdoors.

So, how did one of our daughters get COVID?

We’ve been strict. Our middle daughter has special needs and is immunocompromised. We’ve been making adjustments to our lifestyle to accommodate Cami since she was born 16 years ago, so in that way we were better prepared than most to roll up our sleeves and say, “Okay, well, life is gonna look a little different for a bit and we’re gonna isolate. We can do hard things, so we can do that.” Cami trained us for this.

So, we knuckled down. Given the choice between what the CDC says and what that dude on Facebook who swears he knows better says, we went with the CDC. It was tricky, as everyone knows. Initially, we were pretty alone. I remember the first time I walked into the grocery store with a mask on and felt so conspicuous and foolish even though I was pretty sure it was the right thing to do. “Two weeks,” we were told back then. But not enough people bought into even the reality of the virus (much less the protocols) for that to ever be true.

Two weeks turned into two months turned into 200 days. Until that point, we celebrated as a family with an ice cream party or a movie marathon or service in the community every ten days to both mark the time and create our positive within the big ol’ negative that was 2020. After day 200, we pared our celebrations down to once every 20 days. Like I said, we’re lucky enough to be pros at this stuff. Hard to hit us with enough lemons we can’t find more new and delicious recipes for lemonade. (That’s not a challenge, God.)

And all the while we kept pace with the protocols. We did everything we could for the sake of Cami and I’m happy to say there hasn’t been any real complaining. Even our youngest daughter—who hasn’t played with a friend in person in nearly a year now—is on board because she gets it. This is what we do. Virtual schooling? Check. Not eating in restaurants? Check. Buying lots of board games and even resorting to puzzles to entertain ourselves? Check.

So, how in the world did Elora, our oldest daughter, get COVID?

The short answer is: I have no idea. It makes no sense. She did everything correctly. We did everything correctly. It is one of the most unfair things to happen to us in a while now.

And yet, it isn’t at all. It does make sense. It is not unfair.

I’ll come back to that.

We knew something was up when Elora started complaining of “feeling sick.” None of us had had even an inkling of illness since February 2020. We took her temperature. Sure enough, she had a fever. How?

How!?

It didn’t really matter. We sent her to her room immediately and did not see her again for two weeks. For two full weeks, her only company was her turtle, all her meals were brought to her, and, I’ll be honest, there were days we kind of forgot she was there. It was harsh, it was cruel, and it was possibly unnecessary.

The day after sending her to her room, Elora went and got a local rapid test. Sure enough, COVID. So, we were all exposed. Her symptoms had only just manifested, but how many days had she had it now? Three? Four? A week? The damage, to all of us, had probably already been done. Crud, we knew of so many families where COVID-19 just rolled right on through the whole house. It was basically inevitable we would now all get it.

So, why isolate her?

Because we can do hard things. Because that’s what the CDC recommends. Because we don’t live in fear.

There’s a certain confidence that comes with knowing you’ve done everything you can. It’s not a confidence that everything will be alright, but just a peace in being able to say, “I’ve done what I can do, it’s up to God now.” Was there a moment of panic when Elora got her results back? Of course. But knowing we were acting responsibly on the knowledge and light given us meant a greater possibility of being blessed. Of having our diligence rewarded.

I don’t know about you, but the thing I’m afraid of most of all is regret.

The good news was: we truly had no reason to fear at all. None of the rest of us developed symptoms. Cami stayed safe. There was a day there when it seemed like every random tingle or small ache we might otherwise ignore was an indication of symptoms and that was weird and kind of maddening. When Erin’s allergies acted up and she couldn’t shake the thought it might be more, she went and got her own rapid test. Negative.

We all stayed healthy. Elora’s symptoms only lasted a couple days, and two weeks later she emerged. I’m telling this story for the first time now with her permission. While she was enduring her extreme isolation it was too lonely and too difficult emotionally to have her business out there. But she has things in perspective now. There’s no shame in getting COVID. She did everything she could to not get it, and even more once she did. Boy, are we grateful for her sacrifice.

So, are the protocols bunk? Everyone who knows us say that if they were to choose someone to hang out with during a pandemic it would be us. Because who else do they know who is more careful?

No one. And one of us got it anyway. So, the protocols are bunk. Stupid.

Right?

The reason COVID came to our house is the same reason why some children are born even though birth control was taken or a condom worn. You take what precautions you can, but eliminating all risk is impossible. The protocols are in place to give us the best chance at not getting this virus; they are not a guarantee.

But not being a guarantee is not the same as saying the CDC protocols are bunk. The same protocols that failed Elora also kept the rest of us—and, more importantly, Cami—from getting sick. How much worse off would we have been if we’d just said, “Eh, forget it. Elora, let’s party?”

I have no idea. And that’s the point: you don’t know what will happen, you only know what gives you the best chance. And that way…

That way lies no regret.

***Because this is the online world and I didn’t fill this little essay with a million caveats, let me just say here that this is not a political post. I mean, I hope that’s obvious, but I’m pretty sure you can post a cat video these days and be accused of being political. However, I do take certain things for granted that, for some reason, are political for some. Things like: COVID-19 is worse than the flu, COVID-19 kills a lot of people (see: “pandemic”), and wearing a mask is just the neighborly thing to do. So, just FYI, my goal here is not to engage in any of the debates of the day; I’m just sharing in the hopes it might be helpful to someone. That’s it. I learned in Kindergarten that sharing is cool. So, let’s be cool, okay?***

What I’m Listening to #intimeslikethese

I swear if I see one more commercial that starts with some somber woman intoning the words “In difficult times like these…” I think I might pop. This is a time in which we are all seeking comfort, but I don’t look for or need it from a Subaru advertisement. God help me if I ever do.

Where I actually find a lot of solace is in things like prayer and family. And music. Music is big for me. I have no actual talent in the creation or performance of music whatsoever, so the listening of it is something I do purely for pleasure, not for examination or study.

I recently came to the conclusion that the song No Hard Feelings by The Avett Brothers (see below to listen) is perhaps the most beautiful song released in the last couple decades or so. (Argue with me if you want, but that just means you haven’t heard it.)  It’s a song that didn’t strike me immediately on first listen, but my appreciation of it has grown and grown over the years. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with the lyrical content, which (to me) is about the relief waiting for us in the next life when old hurts and regrets are wiped away and we are reunited with our loved ones and our Savior, with whom we will “shake hands laughing.” It’s just gorgeous.

My cousin Carly added the song to her “Being Held” playlist, the idea of which I quite like. There is a need to reach beyond this virus and all the turmoil it’s causing in our hearts and in our streets and in our hospitals. I think we’d all like to “be held” right now. And, as a person of faith, I’d like God to do the holding. Metaphorically speaking, I believe He is, and a playlist that reminds me He is there and always present is a good thing.

So, here’s my “Being Held” playlist. All of these songs are either about God or make me think of Him. They may not have been intended as such, but that’s what they are to me. And, when it comes to music, I think what it means to me is the most important thing.

Maybe you’ll find a few gems in here that will help you, too.

(Note: If you build this for yourself, I recommend not hitting shuffle. I sequenced this sucker!)

  1. Slow Your Breath Down – Future of Forestry. A good reminder, especially #intimeslikethese.

2. No Hard Feelings – The Avett Brothers. Chills every time it reaches the climax.

3. This Road – Jars of Clay. You’re gonna see a lot of Jars of Clay on this list. This song is like a warm blanket.

4. Before You Were Young – Travis. Not hard to imagine who is singing this song.

5. Open Arms – Elbow. Makes me tear up. This is what I want God to say when I return home.

6. Hymn – Jars of Clay. “So melt my pride that I may in your house but live…”

7. Division – Moby. No lyrics, just a vibe.

8. Help Me – Johnny Cash. This is speaking to God from a desperate place. A prayer given by a man at the end of his life who has said a lot of them.

9. I Don’t Mind – Phantom Planet. Whatever the Lord needs to inflict upon me, I’ll take it because I know it’s worth it. I don’t mind.

10. Oh My God – Jars of Clay. Now, in almost every instance I view exclaiming “Oh my God” as using the Lord’s name in vain. This is Jars of Clay crafting an entire song around the idea that there actually is a circumstance in which using that phrase is appropriate. What they come up with is absolutely devastating. This lays me flat every time, and it’s in my personal Top 3 favorite songs.

11. I’ve Been High – R.E.M. This always, always lifts me up.

12. Let Your Heart Hold Fast – Fort Atlantic. “For this soon shall pass like the high tide takes the sand…”

13. Morning Light – The Hunts. This song, sadly, is not available on YouTube, and is even difficult to find commercially. It’s worth tracking down though, believe me. A sweet song about turning the “darkest night into the morning light.” (A huge theme in a lot of my writing.)

14. Worlds Apart (Live) – Jars of Clay. A plea to God to “take my world apart,” which is a good thing to do when your world is bad. (Find the live version off their “Furthermore” album, if you can.)

15. Outro – M83. I think it’s a synth, but I wish the organs in our churches sound like this.

16. Bathed in Sunlight – Fort Atlantic. Wouldn’t we all like to be? Even I, who prefers dark rooms to the outdoors, want that sunlight.

17. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing – Jars of Clay. Probably my favorite hymn, and this is the best rendition of it.

18. Til Kingdom Come – Coldplay. Coldplay actually did a straight up, no-holds-barred Christian song, and I feel like people forgot about it. More overt than anything U2 ever put out.

19. On the Nature of Daylight – Max Richter. No lyrics, but the feeling this song evokes is extraordinary. I find myself thinking in cycles, life and death, that sort of thing. I think about God.

That’s it, those are the songs I’m drawing the most comfort from right now. Anything you would add to it? What are you listening to that’s bringing you to a better place?

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Day 25 – Better 37 and Unemployed Than 21 and a Schmuck

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Monday – September 22, 2014

I'm roughly 21 here. I'm being much more mysterious than is warranted.
I’m roughly 21 here. I’m being much more mysterious than is warranted.

Erin had an absolutely fantastic interview this morning with a local company. The position she applied for was entry level, but they took one look at her and her snazzy business-appropriate outfit and decided she might be a much better fit for the level above entry. Because these people are sane. We’ll see where it goes.

While Erin was having this success, I was with Violet at home when I got a call from my Sister-in-Law, Karen, about a friend of her’s looking for an Art Director for a company up in Northern California. I jumped on this one fast with an email and a sent Resume. An hour later I had a phone interview for tomorrow scheduled. Obviously, this is a perfect match and I’ll have the job by this time next week.

It feels like things are ramping up. Erin and I have both got so many different leads and they’re all rising at the same time. At some point, they’re either gonna crash into each other and we’ll have some hard decisions to make, or one of them is gonna break the surface of the water first and come out on top. The question isn’t: Will we find something? It’s: Which one of us gets a job first?

Oh, and there’s one other question: Where will we go?

Central California and everywhere else. These are the twin poles of our job hunt. I’ve known for the past 16 years of my professional career exactly what I was going to do and where I wanted to be. Now, everything is up in the air and there are moments when that’s more than a little disconcerting.

The last time I was this uncertain about the future and this unsettled in my life, I was a fresh-faced 21-year-old just home from his mission, trying to make a go of it with a Sister Missionary from that same mission, not looking for a job, and with absolutely no desire to attend college (while absolutely needing to).*

*There, now you don’t have to read the first five chapters of WORLDS APART.

Okay, when I write it all out like that I realize that I’m actually much better off today than I was back then. That guy–that young guy?–he was kind of a schmuck. He got stuck a lot. He was too hyper focused on what he couldn’t do. He had a self-punishing belief that he would never be good enough for anyone and always be alone. He was terrible at love, barely entering relationships before he either offended his way out of them or they ended with literal disasters. Like that one time with the car wreck.*

*Like I said, first five chapters.

This was taken earlier this year. Look at that confidence! That unshaven face!
This was taken earlier this year. Look at that confidence! That unshaven face!

I’m so very much not alone now. I’ve got a wife, and a fantastic one at that who has not left me after any of the times I wrecked or otherwise damaged the car. I’ve got three beautiful daughters. I’ve got amazing friends and a college degree. I’ve got a tried and tested Faith. I’ve got three pets, and only one of them pees on me with regularity. And, really, he’s doing a lot better. I’ve got brownies in the kitchen right now.

Basically–and I realize this is a recurring theme at this point (and it darn well better be)–I’ve got blessings. I may possibly be more blessed now than at any other time of my life. And I’m unemployed.

Go figure.

Day 20 – This is How We Know God is Mindful of Us

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Wednesday – September 17, 2014

044-044-TheGoodSamaritan-full
The Good Samaritan. One of my very favorite parables.

Erin’s body does not deal with stress well. When she was a kid, she was ill a lot, earning her the nickname Illy McIllerson (as of this very moment). Now that she’s an adult it’s not as bad, but her body is prone to waving the white flag now and again, and forcing her into bed. This is what happened this morning. So, once again, I had to take the single dad role. And, this time, the nurse role.

I’m not completely terrible at this. If there was money in being a substitute mom, I wouldn’t feel bad taking it. I managed to get the kids to all the places they needed to go, do some job applying, write, and even pick up a friend’s kid from school and set him up with some video games at our place (after he’d completed his homework, of course). That was the easy stuff. The hard stuff was helping Erin get better.

We’ve decided to elect COBRA to extend our health insurance coverage, but we haven’t actually paid the premiums yet (my foreign friends, you are so very lucky). Neither Erin nor I wanted to deal with doctors and try to explain our situation, but something had to be done because Erin only got worse as the day went on. Thankfully, the doctor was just fine with calling in a prescription without actually seeing Erin (this is how often she gets sinus infections–the drill is known).

I went to Target to pick up the medicine while Erin slept. Without COBRA, we’d have to pay full price for the prescription. Okay, whatever. Erin was tired of feeling crummy and I didn’t care how much it cost. I hate seeing her suffer. I looked it up and the most we’d pay would be $50 for her particular antibiotic. Not great, but doable.

The incredibly nice young woman at the pharmacy counter (I’ll call her Shirley because I know no one by that name–I’m not even sure it’s a real name, quite frankly) looked up our name and found another prescription for me to pick up–Cami’s anti-seizure meds. She helpfully rang it all up for me.

I didn’t say a word. Secretly, I was hoping our insurance had screwed up and we were still on the plan. It was a remote, illogical possibility, but it only took Shirley a moment to explore so I let it happen.

Shirley scanned Cami’s meds. $216. “Oh no,” she said. “That’s not right!”

“No, no,” I said. “That’s right. That’s what I expected.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, we lost our jobs a couple of weeks ago and COBRA hasn’t kicked in, so–”

“I HAVE A COUPON!”

Shirley ran away from me, over to some drawer I couldn’t see, and rifled through it. When she came back, she punched some numbers into the computer and announced that she’d gotten Cami’s meds down to $30 and Erin’s antibiotic down to $16. I barely knew how to react. The guy behind me in line said “That was awesome.” I nodded towards him as if to say “Yes, guy in line, that was awesome.”

“Thank you,” I said to Shirley. Over and over again.

“It’s my pleasure,” she said. “We get these coupons from the pharmaceutical companies to use when there’s a need. You’re one of our regulars, we gotta take care of you.”

This is going to sound weird, but if you’ve read this far I think you’re with me on this: I’m really grateful Erin is sick a lot.

* * *

We keep getting little (and big) blessings like this. A friend and former co-worker stopped by today with a gift card. He didn’t have to do that, but he did and it’s just more evidence to us that God is mindful of us. This is usually how God is mindful of all of us: through other people. I have to think, because of that, we’re not being set up for a fall here. He’s propping us up right now as signs that He is there and is guiding us towards what we need to overcome this particular trial.

Now, the reverse could be true. He could be showing up because He knows it’s only going to get worse from here on out and He doesn’t want us to be alone, but that’s a super depressing thought so I’m going with the other thing.

Day 3 – Weeping in Church

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

August 31, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 1.10.07 PMGot the feeling not everyone knew quite what to do with us at Church today. That’s okay, I didn’t really know what to say either. There were some warm hugs, so that was nice. One woman came up to Erin, stuck her finger in her face, and proclaimed, “We are praying for you and you WILL have a new job by the end of the week.” Then she walked off.

The theme of Sacrament Meeting was dealing with adversity, which was appropriate and just mean. Erin and I held it together pretty well until the rest hymn “Count Your Many Blessings.” This is one of those hymns I’ve always found a little trite, but today it could not have been more profound. Each word hit like a mack truck carrying a heavy payload of truth. We wept our way through the first verse and a half before stopping for want of being able to form coherent sounds. We read the words and listened to the congregation sing after that, and that was enough. Their voices never before filled that chapel so completely and beautifully.

Here’s the second verse, but they’re all good:

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

During the second and third hour of church a friend and employment lawyer sat with Erin and me to help us figure this thing out. He told us he doesn’t have many talents in life, but this–THIS is what he’s good at. This is how he serves people. We found ourselves not just talking about severance agreements and contracts, but also the burden and frustration of the past few days. He listened to all of it. When I apologized, he said it was all part of the job. It’s really not, I think.

That afternoon, Erin and I took the kids to go visit a friend who wasn’t able to make it to church because of a recent surgery. Neither she nor her husband had any idea we were suddenly unemployed, so the conversation stayed mercifully away from us and we got to focus on their needs and be just another happy couple again. I don’t know that we’ll have another moment like that before this thing is through, so even in the moment I treasured it.

When we finally got home, we played some family Mario Kart 8 and dug through past letters from the Company. I’d been given a few raises over the years and as I reviewed the praises from my boss justifying them, I experienced a conflicting set of emotions that I’m not entirely sure I’m completely in touch with. Not-so-deep within me is anger at being laid off, but I’m also so grateful for the experiences I had at the Company and my accomplishments and the relationships and friendships I’d never have otherwise. I think it’s going to be a while before I know how to properly frame all of this all within my own mind.

* * *

I broke out in hives today. All up and down my forearms and a little on my neck. I haven’t rubbed up against any plants in the recent past, nor eaten anything unusual. I don’t think it’s physical what I’m experiencing. I can’t remember the last time I felt this stressed out.

What are we going to do?

Day 2 – 20 Blessings from the First 24 Hours of Unemployment

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

August 30, 2014

settlersThe Facebook messages didn’t stop during the overnight. A lot of people seemed to think that playing Settlers of Catan would somehow alleviate the stress and tragedy of this week’s double job loss, as though a simple game among friends could have the power to stave off emotional darkness and too easy cynicism.

Smart, smart people. I love tabletop gaming and so does my wife, so we were all in on that.

I decided to do an accounting today. I think the secret to happiness is gratitude–the mere act of being grateful requires positive reflection so being grateful for everything is the one guaranteed way to be happy–so I wanted to be sure and think back over the previous 24 hours and consider the ways in which we’d been blessed. Here’s the list I came up with:

1. Warm cookies.

2. Many lovely private messages of support.

3. Erin’s father, Dale, a world class runner, ditched his race in SoCal to come up to be with us.

4. Offer of free massages.

5. Offer of legal help.

6. Sound unemployment advice from people who definitely KNOW what they’re talking about. I’m excited to take advantage of the mortgage insurance on our FHA loan. Apparently, we can get the next six months paid for.

7. Free babysitting so we could go out with my brother and his wife while they’re in town (they’re kind about the negative impact our troubles are having on their vacation, but I feel terrible they have to put up with our feelings when they should be relaxing).

8. Free ice cream, courtesy of my brother and his wife.

9. Offer of cold, hard cash.

10. Leads on potential freelance jobs.

11. Warm hugs. (My girls watch ‘Frozen’ nonstop. All hugs are warm.)

12. Praises we don’t deserve. Seriously, you’d think my wife and I were Gods who could call down fire from the mountain for all the confidence and faith people have in us to pull out of this.

13. Prayers on our behalf.

14. Service in the Church Vineyard. Erin and Elora, our oldest, went to pick grapes in the early AM. The grapes are turned into raisins and then used for relief efforts. For Erin, rendering that service was exactly what she needed. It felt good and took the focus off our troubles for a while.

15. Free horseback riding for our daughter with special needs, Cami. We go out to the Heart of the Horse Therapy Ranch every Saturday morning and it’s always free. Never been more grateful for than than today.

16. Offer to pay for Violet’s preschool. Violet is our youngest. She started preschool for the first time this week. If there was anything Erin was most stressed about, it was having to tell Violet she wouldn’t be able to go back as we cut back on expenses. A kind relative stepped forward and didn’t give us a choice–Violet’s preschool WILL be paid for.

17. A meal we didn’t have to cook or buy.

18. Peace.

19. Love.

20. Hope.

* * *

I’ve been struggling all day between peace and panicking. There are moments when it hits me that soon I won’t know how to pay for things and I just want to run away. We went over  to my Mom’s today and she asked me how I was doing and I snapped at her that I felt “terrible because I lost my job,” as if she didn’t know. I had to apologize to her later. Thankfully, that’s not my disposition most of the time.

Most of the time, I feel good. I feel relieved to be separated from a job that was increasingly an ill fit and I feel grateful to be moving on to something new. Hopefully, that ‘new’ is not homelessness.

We got one last blessing today, very late at night. I got a text from a friend to check the porch, and this is what I found:

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An unemployment survival kit from friends who know how much soft foam violence we’d like to exact on our situation.