About Texas…

Wow. Am I happy that I don’t live in Texas right now. Not that we haven’t experienced our fair share of winter weather and power outages in Virginia, but my state seems far better prepared for weather extremes, thankfully. 

By now, we’ve all seen the viral pictures of the disaster in Texas. Water gushing out of homes from burst pipes. Icicles dangling from ceiling fans. Exhausted pizza makers at Domino’s, which was one of the few places open to buy food. Lines of cars waiting for bottled water. Empty shelves in grocery stores. Bathtubs full of snow, waiting to melt so residents can actually flush their toilets. Definitely not a situation we would expect in the US. I can’t even imagine the desperation of these circumstances.   

We’ve got two different issues going on here. One is climate change, the other is a catastrophic failure in government regulation, as the state of Texas chose long ago not to participate in the national grid. There are exceptions on the fringes of the state, but for the most part, 90% of the state’s electricity is privatized.  

Let’s address climate change first. I know, I know… it’s been cold in Texas. Not just cold, but frigid. This seems counterintuitive to what we have heard about the dangers of climate change, which is typically all about global warming. And, yes, we have the heat to blame for dry conditions, brutal summers, severe fires, and intense and more frequent hurricanes. But bitterly cold temperatures and winter storms? So, what’s the deal? I asked myself the same question. 

Apparently, as the poles of the earth warm, arctic air becomes energized, causing significant fluctuations in the jet stream. The jet stream is the major current which propels weather systems in a generally west to east pattern, and it’s typically very powerful. So powerful, in fact, that flights to the west coast are slower than the trip back east. 

But with a weakened jet stream, the polar vortex has an opening to drift south, wreaking havoc on our typical weather patterns. This is how we ended up with a major winter storm in Texas, of all places. This happened in 2011 as well, with dire results. That should have been a wake-up call to utilities management, but recommendations to winterize the Texas grid were voluntary and expensive. So in great capitalist fashion, profitability won over consumer safety. 

But, wait, isn’t our government supposed to provide structure and regulate our power utilities so that major outages due to safety issues don’t happen? Well, yes. And if you live anywhere else in the US, that is the case, as the rest of the grid falls under federal legislation. However, our infrastructure as a whole is in need of a major overhaul. I mean, what does it say about our grids when in the year 2021, the only way we can avoid total failure when demand for energy is at all time highs, such as a severe heat wave, are rolling blackouts? And, thinking more locally, how many of you live in communities where newer neighborhoods with underground power lines never lose electricity, while older neighborhoods with above ground lines are significantly more vulnerable to power outages? 

Getting back to the situation in Texas, the failures there have nothing to do with limitations in renewable energy, as some have claimed. It has to do with frozen natural gas pipelines and a grid that is not built to withstand freezing temperatures. On top of that, rolling blackouts intended to avoid overwhelming the system are ongoing, too. 

Texas decided to stay off the national grid way back in 1935 to avoid federal regulation. As previously stated, 90% of the state utilizes this grid, while some counties on the fringes of the state do not. The current company managing the grid, ERCOT, formed in 1970, continuing the tradition of avoiding federal regulation, opening the door for safety issues in the name of increasing profits. In fact, it’s so profitable right now due to jacking up natural gas prices from high demand, that the major stockholder in the game is reveling in his “jackpot” moment. Is it really all about money? What about the 47 people in the state who have died so far in this crisis? What happened to taking care of your customers and helping those in need? Sigh. 

This is clearly a case of where small government does not work. When we let capitalism run amok, this is what we get. Greed, ignoring the safety of citizens, and catastrophe. It’s the same story in Flint, Michigan. These are preventable crises. 

We now have a crisis on top of the crisis of the pandemic. How is anyone managing to stay sane when they have to struggle to merely survive? There’s only so long one can exist in a fight or flight state. 

Are basic human needs a right, including access to affordable power? Or are these to remain luxuries for the rich? I mean, who can afford a power bill of several thousand dollars? It seems the owners of the grid are laughing all the way to the bank. President Biden has declared a state of emergency for Texas, ordering federal assistance for recovery, and multiple lawmakers from other states have led the charge for raising funds and organizing distribution of goods to the citizens of Texas. 

Of all the things we need to worry about to maintain our wellness, at least in the US, we shouldn’t have to be concerned about the stability of our utilities, especially in the midst of evolving climate change. Yes, this time, the utility crisis was in Texas, but it could happen anywhere. Although it seems we are powerless to prevent these issues, it’s important to let your voice be heard. Contact your local, state, and federal legislators and let them know that you want to ensure the safety of our utilities infrastructure. These are things that we take for granted until they don’t work. If you are in Texas and are affected by this crisis, I’m sending you love and light. As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

Grocery Store Tour Series for Vegans: Target

Yes. That Target. The same one with the fancy designer clothes and home goods and the super fun dollar section. And although not every Target has the real grocery department, granting it the title of PFresh Target, we do have two close to me that have that distinction. 

Of course, one can’t possibly do their primary grocery shop at these Target stores, but they have some wonderful vegan friendly items if you are already in the store anyway. They may even have more variety than you expect. And, let’s face it. Who doesn’t love a Target run?

Target PFresh stores have all the basics. There’s pasta (even Banza!), canned beans, jarred pasta sauce (including my favorite by Rao’s), canned veggies, bread (even Dave’s!), refrigerated juices, and frozen basics. They do have some basic produce items like bananas and avocados. What you may not expect is the variety of plant based items in their refrigerated and freezer sections. 

The produce and meat section of my local Target store with the PFresh format.

Here’s the unexpected that they have:

Miyoko’s products

  • This vegan “dairy” line is wonderful. My Target grocery carries their plant based butter, roadhouse style spreadable “cheese,” and vegan mozzarella. The mozzarella is grateable and is a great addition to my homemade pizza!
There is a nice selection of tofu, meat substitutes, plant-based dips, and Miyoko’s products.

Plant-based meat

Beyond burgers and grounds as well as Impossible grounds.

Tofu

  • Hodo seasoned tofu products
  • Organic tofu

Plant-based milk products

  • They carry a variety of brands of plant based milk, including Silk, Almond Breeze, So Delicious, Califia, and Target’s store brand, Good and Gather. They even have my favorite: the plain Silk Protein milk.
  • Target also carries a few types of non-dairy creamer!
  • They also have a decent variety of non-dairy ice cream, including their own store brand, So Delicious, and Ben and Jerry’s. I also found the plant-based Kind ice cream bars (totally worth the calories, btw.)
  • Vegan yogurts by So Delicious and Silk.
  • Daiya cheese slices.
The plant based milk case at my local Target.

Vegan friendly items for baking

  • Organic sugar. Since regular sugar is assumed to be processed with bone char, it’s a safer bet to purchase organic varieties. 
  • Bob’s Red Mill products, including egg replacer and nutritional yeast.
  • Enjoy Life chocolate chips
  • Toll House allergen free chocolate chips
A variety of organic sugar here.
Enjoy Life and Toll House allergen free chocolate chips are here!

Frozen vegan meals

  • Gardein products are here!
  • Target’s store brand Good and Gather has frozen “chicken” nuggets and tenders.
  • Sweet Earth vegan meals
  • Fat Rabbit vegetarian meals (reading the ingredients, some varieties are vegan, but are advertised as vegetarian)
One of a few cases with frozen vegan friendly items.

Dave’s Killer Bread

  • They carry all the breads, bagels, and buns! My favorite national brand for bread. All are vegan except the cinnamon raisin bread.

Most Target stores do have a selection of grocery basics, even if they don’t have produce. But the produce section is your clue that the location is a PFresh Target. I love that there are a few items here that I can’t find anywhere else, and that will keep me shopping at these stores!

My grocery selections this trip. They had a sale: buy 3, get one free plant based proteins.

What’s interesting about Richmond and the grocery landscape here is that we have so much variety! In the same shopping center as this Target store I visited for this post, there is a Food Lion and an Aldi, and, across the street from these 3 stores, a Kroger Marketplace. That’s a lot of choices! We are indeed lucky in the RVA!

I’m posting a day early just in case we lose power tomorrow due to the expected ice storm. As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy!

The N95

When I was in high school, I took driver’s ed, of course. And my teacher talked about using bright lights. And since we lived in a city, he predicted that it would be about 3 years before we would ever need to use these. He was wrong. I found myself driving with my dad out in the country shortly thereafter, and I actually needed to use my bright lights. 

I remember feeling slightly weirded out by the fact that I needed my high beams. I mean, I had a reasonably responsible adult who told me I wouldn’t need them because of where I would be driving the most. And it was odd that he was wrong. 

I’m feeling the same sense of wow about using an N95 mask on a daily basis at work. This once rarely utilized piece of PPE has become a daily part of my uniform. As normal as my color coded scrubs to indicate with which team I belong.  It’s definitely a strange yet important time to be a healthcare provider. 

Before the pandemic, this was a piece of equipment you were fitted for once a year or so. It was something that you had to check off of your annual competencies and safety checklists, much like reviewing infection control measures and OSHA guidelines every year. A necessary afterthought. We all took our masks home with us and, if you’re like me, stuck it in some pile of stuff somewhere with things that you’d likely never need, but were too important to toss. 

While being fitted, which consists of asking what size you were last time, putting that size on, putting a tent over your head, and squirting a bitter saccharin solution mist into the tent to see if you can taste it, we often would ask others in line for this process if you’ve ever had to use one. Often it was never. I actually treated a patient in acute care a few years ago on airborne precautions for the measles. I was the frequent winner of the N95 wearing contest for wearing one one time in my 21 years of practice. This past year has changed that oddity for every healthcare provider and for our support personnel. 

Never in my wildest nightmare did I think that I would have to become so intimately acquainted with the 3M size small N95. It leaves me with strap marks and a bit of redness once it’s off, often lasting for hours after doffing it. For a long while after my work day, I feel like I’ve had a suction cup over my mouth and nose. I guess it kind of looks like that, too. 

Hours after taking off my N95, you can still see the imprints of the mask and straps.

If that’s not enough, I also double mask and wear goggles. The double masking  keeps the N95 cleaner. And as an added bonus, if I do go into a contact or airborne precaution room, I can just replace the level 1 mask on top. The goggles were added as another layer of protection in September when it was discovered that the coronavirus can also enter the body through your eyes. It’s a lot of gear to wear all day, and I’m only treating COVID+ patients occasionally. Working with these patients also also requires a plastic gown and face shield.  

Goggles and double masking are routine in Covid times.

I started my current job in August, right smack in the middle of the pandemic. It’s been so difficult to learn who everyone is and to match faces with names. That’s the weird part about starting a new, in person job during this ongoing crisis. I don’t often get to see everyone’s faces during our socially distanced lunches. But I’m getting there!

I feel very fortunate to have adequate PPE right now to protect both my patients and me.  It gives me a great sense of peace and safety when I arrive to work and find my little brown bag with a fresh N95. I’m also grateful that the days of having to recycle our masks to wear again are also seemingly over. And I’m super grateful to work with the team of colleagues of which I am a part. 

But the next time you’re out at the grocery and you see someone in scrubs trying to fit in that after work run for necessities, know that they have likely had a long day serving others in less than ideal circumstances. We’re a bit weary of wearing these fitted N95’s. 

Please keep encouraging everyone to do their part. Get vaccinated if you can. And wear your mask! Maybe one day, our lives can return to something closer to normal. 

Have you ever worn a fit tested N95 for an extended period of time? How is mask compliance in the community where you live? I’d love to hear about your experiences. As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

Looking for inspiration?

It’s time for a round-up of some of my favorite Instagram accounts, bloggers, vloggers, and podcasts!

As we are STILL stuck in COVID world, social media has been an often pleasant, sometimes informative, sometimes agitating, way to fill the void left by not being able to go out and see friends as much. I’ve tried to feature some legendary, great people who cover these topics, but also some lesser known folks who I love to follow as well!

Running and Fitness:

India Cook 

www.milesfromindia.com

@i_of_endigo_runs on IG

She’s got a great vlog on YouTube as well as a The Run Duo podcast! She’s got a pretty inspiring Instagram feed as well!

Kyle Kranz 

https://www.kylekranz.com/

@kyle_j_kranz on IG

He’s a plant based runner and coach who gives some pretty good info about both. 

Rich Roll

https://www.richroll.com/

He’s got a long running podcast about a variety of wellness topics. He is a legendary ultrarunner and triathlete. He also wrote the amazing book Finding Ultra. You can follow him on IG as well @richroll

Vegan food:

Nora Taylor of Nora Cooks Vegan

https://www.noracooks.com/

She’s got an amazing food blog where she posts original vegan recipes. Follow her on IG, and you won’t miss one! @nora_cooks_vegan_

Lauren at Rabbit and Wolves

www.rabbitandwolves.com

She is also a vegan recipe developer. Everything I’ve tried of hers is amazing! I mean, vegan Salisbury steak? Come on!

Completed Vegan Salisbury Steak from Rabbit and Wolves

The Dragon’s Picnic

www.thedragonspicnic.com

Joanne posts really great recipes that are so beautifully photographed! Hers is an up and coming blog that deserves more attention!

Mental Health:

The Holistic Psychologist

https://yourholisticpsychologist.com/

@the.holistic.psychologist on IG

She provides excellent guidance on healing from childhood trauma. Plus, she’s got a new book!

Talking Points with Kia Rae

@talkingpointswkiarae

This is a new podcast from a good runner friend of mine, Nikkia Young. Her first episode was about setting boundaries. I’m looking forward to hearing more!

Life and Politics:

John Pavlovitz

https://johnpavlovitz.com/

John Pavlovitz is an author who articulates so well what is concerning about our country right now.

Paulie at The Life in My Years

www.thelifeinmyyears.com

He writes a truthful, heartfelt commentary on life in America that is often humorous. I’ve really enjoyed his recent posts. Another blog that deserves more attention!

So if you need some inspiration, check out these folks!

In Richmond, we are bracing for another round of winter weather. It has already started! We had about an hour of sleet before it changed over to snow. On Saturday, it’s supposed to ice. I have a feeling it will be an interesting commute to work!

Who do you follow for inspiration? I’d love to hear about it! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

Here we spin again…

As I rolled over in bed early Friday morning, my old nemesis vertigo re-emerged. I was hoping the feeling was fleeting and that by the time I woke up to get ready for work, the sensation would resolve itself. Alas, my hope was extinguished when I tried to pop out of bed with my alarm only to be met with overwhelming, nausea inducing waves of vertigo, which sent me right back to lying down. After several attempts of trying to slowly get out of bed, my husband woke up. He was able to get me into the bathroom at least. And that was that. No working for me Friday. I’ve spent most of the weekend on the sofa, sadly. No running. Not much of anything at all. 

I’ve definitely succumbed to BPPV, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. This is when calcium crystals dislodge in your inner ear, settling in your ear canal, exciting parts of your ear that detect movement. The crystals give your vestibular system false information about where your body is in space, eliciting that lovely room-spinning sensation. Unlike last time I had vertigo when my eustachian tube was clogged, this time is worse, and definitely more persistent. I’m certain that I had a mild case of BPPV last time in addition to the tube issue.

I had so much planned last weekend. Work on Friday. My daughter’s birthday celebration that evening. 9 mile run Saturday. Running some errands. Enjoying the snow Sunday. My time on the sofa was spent watching the rest of Schitts Creek and lots of college gymnastics. 

I talked my husband through the torture that is the Epley maneuver, one of the treatments for BPPV. We tried the left ear first, since that was the culprit last time. No symptoms until he flipped my head to the right. Oy. So much vertigo! So I had him try again the next day starting with the right. Then I got symptoms both initially and again when he flipped my head to the left. Sigh. I should have known to do the right ear first, since turning on my right side when sleeping brings on the vertigo, indicating the symptomatic ear. After the second Epley, I just felt like I was floating on a boat in the middle of the ocean. And then, predictably the next morning, the vertigo returned.

So what does a PT do when her knowledge of her medical issues is exhausted? She reaches out to colleagues who know more about the topic than you. I have a classmate who is a former collegiate track and field athlete who I reach out to for ortho/running issues. But for this? I asked my friend Melissa, who is a vestibular specialist. Vestibular issues require a special set of skills that are really in a category of use it or lose it. They are not difficult to learn, but so easy to forget if you don’t use them frequently. She gave me a different maneuver to try for BPPV. I was hoping this would fix it, but I again woke up this morning with terrible vertigo. 

I tried to work this morning. My drive there was OK, until I got out of the car. I was nauseated. Too much head movement. It did resolve, but I ended up abbreviating my schedule, and a colleague did another Epley on me. Everyone got to see nystagmus who wanted to. That was fun. 

Here is the great debate in research for BPPV: do you stay upright after treatment, or is it safe to lie down? In my personal experience, I think I’m going to try sleeping sitting up in a recliner tonight, as I seem to be re-settling the crystals every time I sleep in my bed. I think (I hope) that between the Epley and that, I will feel better soon. Because if I wake up again like this tomorrow, I’m going to have to pay money to see the doctor. And that is something I don’t want to do!

I do have good news to report. My in-laws were able to get vaccinated for Covid-19 this weekend thanks to the Hanover NAACP. They helped to align those who qualified for the vaccine in Hanover County with appointments for a clinic on Saturday. So grateful for them! My own mom was able to get her first dose last weekend through a clinic that her primary care doctor held. That’s one benefit of being a part of a big medical practice, for sure! We’re still waiting for my dad, who is supposed to get his through his dialysis clinic. I feel a bit of relief that at least ¾ of my elders have their first dose. 

And Sunday, we got more snow, sandwiched between two episodes of very cold rain. And, of course, there was that little football game. I hope your weekend was better than mine!

My dog Ellie watching the snow fall!

Did you do anything fun last weekend? I’d love to hear about it! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

Exciting News!

I’m thrilled to tell you that I’ve been selected as an ambassador for the 2021 Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon!

The Blue Ridge Marathon is held in Roanoke, Virginia, and is dubbed the world’s toughest road marathon. It is featured by Race Raves as one of the toughest road races in North America. Like most of the races in 2020, it was cancelled last year due to the pandemic. So far, this race is on for April 17th. Organizers have promised a socially distanced, in-person, awesome race experience. 

Photo courtesy of Blue Ridge Marathon

My friends who have run the marathon and half marathon all say how well organized, friendly, and beautiful the courses are! The half marathon has been a bucket list race for me. They also offer a 10k and a double marathon. Choose your poison! 

The Roanoke Star! Photo courtesy of Blue Ridge Marathon!

All of the races are as scenic as they are challenging. For the half marathon, we will climb 2 mountains, including Mill Mountain with the famed Roanoke Star at the top! I can’t wait for that! The full marathon will take you onto portions of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The 10k course will also take you to the top of Mill Mountain to see the star. So none of these courses are fast and flat, but they are beautiful! Not ready to race in person? They have virtual options as well. 

If you are interested in joining in the fun on April 17th, you can use my discount code to earn 20% off registration! Use code ANNE20 for the discount.

Registration link here: 

https://runsignup.com/Race/VA/Roanoke/BlueRidge

Are you looking forward to racing in person again, as long as COVID precautions are taken? Have you run any in-person events since the pandemic began? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

We had a snow day! (Tips for winter running.)

For the first time since 2018, the Richmond area had an appreciable amount of snow! Now, I follow the meteorologist DT from WxRisk (you can find him on Facebook), and he is usually on point with forecasting, often calling it correctly days before the local meteorologists. Well, this go-round for the east coast Nor’easter, he was wrong! And our beloved Andrew Friedman with NBC12 had it right. We got about 5 inches of snow near Ashland before a solid dose of freezing rain and sleet on top. DT was calling for closer to 6-8 inches in my area with all snow, with more snow on Monday. He had to update his forecast to reflect the move of the low pressure system further up the coast. 

The obligatory back porch snow photo!

What we got sure was pretty, though! I even managed to get out and complete my long run in the mess. I know. If I were smart, I would have run Saturday before the snow. But I had to work! And then after work, I chose to brave the Kroger for some last-minute supplies like the rest of Richmond. And then it was after dark. Sigh. 

My tracks!

But truly, running in the snow makes you feel 100% more bad-ass than any normal run day. It helps to have the right gear! So, what do I wear in the cold and snow?

  • Layers. So many layers! It’s important to keep your core warm! I start with a running tank, followed by a technical long sleeve (bonus if it has thumb holes) topped with a running pullover of some kind, preferably with microfleece lining. I will pull my thumb holes over my gloves, and put my Garmin watch on over the long sleeve, but not the pullover. I have a unisex and a ladies Sport Tek ¼ zip that meet this criteria as well as a Nike pullover. My cold gear running tights are the same material. I was surprised how well it kept me dry on my run through the freezing rain.
Taken after my run when I was nice and warm! Notice the amber lenses on my sunglasses. It was 30 degrees with cold rain/sleet/snow mix on my run.
  • Gloves. On average cold days, I can get by with the cheap $1 knit gloves, taking them off and stuffing them in my bra for safekeeping if I get hot. But when it’s really cold, I need technical gloves with the mitten windbreaker overlay. If I get hot, I’ll fold back the mitten layer. On Sunday’s run, these were a godsend, keeping my fingers dry and warm. Several companies make these. The ones I own are made by Hind, and I bought them ridiculously cheap at Marshall’s, but many running gear companies make these!
One example of running gloves with mitten overalys. These are from Nathan.
  • Ear warmers. I will use these if it’s under 20 degrees. I do tend to get hot, so typically this comes off by mile 1, and I take it off, looping it through my hydration belt for safekeeping. 
  • Hat. Full hat, especially if it’s raining or snowing! You lose 10% of your body heat through your head, so keeping it covered really helps keep you warm, while the bill keeps rain out of your eyes. (You can also trade a hat and ear warmers for a warm beanie. I tend to get too hot for these!)
  • Sunglasses. Yup. Snow creates lots of glare, even if it’s actively precipitating. Using glasses with amber lenses cuts down on the glare without making it too dark while also keeping flakes out of your eyes. My favorites are from Goodr. 
  • Crew length running socks. I want to make sure my ankles are covered! In the snow or cold rain, I will wear these, as well as if it’s under 20 degrees. 
  • Trail shoes. For snow, this helps so much. I really got to put my Hoka Speedgoats to good use yesterday. They have Gore-Tex, so my feet stayed dry! I could feel the cold when I went through puddles or slush, but my feet warmed back up quickly. The tread was also really good at keeping me from slipping. Trail shoes are a wise investment if you take to trails somewhat frequently or encounter winter weather often, even if you are primarily a road runner! They will, for me, last a couple of years because I run roads more frequently than technical trails.
My Hoka Speedgoats and my favorite Nike cold gear run tights with microfleece lining.
  • Hydration belt AND SPIbelt. Here’s a tip: your phone will die quickly in the cold. If I keep my phone in just my hydration belt pouch, it stays way too cold! But in the frigid temps, using the SPIbelt to hold your phone between layers works wonders with maintaining battery life, taking advantage of your core heat to keep that battery warm! When I’m running alone, I never run without my phone. I also play my music straight from my phone’s speaker. That way, I can hear my surroundings, and can definitely hear my music. No one else really can unless they are right beside you. 

I hope you find my experiences helpful! 

I was back to work today, with the roads in much better condition than yesterday, thank goodness! We still have enough on the ground to look pretty, though!

Did you get to run or play in the snow for those of you East Coasters who were lucky enough to get snow? What are some of your favorite items/gear you love to run with in the cold and snow? I’d love to hear about it! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy. 

Have a Heart…

One of my friends recently posted an article on Facebook from Sheryl at Moms of Teens and Tweens (see link below). For those of us with older kids, this is such a sweet idea to honor them and let them know our feelings. I was so taken by the idea of posting a heart on their door every day that I’m going to take her advice!

I’m a recovering scrapbooker, so this craft is right up my ally. Granted, my teenage daughters are almost grown at 15 and soon to be 19, the older one in college, but I’m still going to do this for both of them. My older daughter will be home this weekend and next, so I’m hoping she will enjoy the surprise!

How does this go? Post a heart on their bedroom door each day from February 1st through 14th, kind of like an advent calendar for Valentine’s day. Each heart has a note about something you love about your kid!

Both of my girls are making the best of a less than ideal situation with the pandemic: one learning virtually and missing her friends, the other grieving the loss of her senior rites of passage followed by a rather strange initiation into college life. This week, my younger daughter is enduring the stress of exams, something she really didn’t deal with quite so much last year due to schools closing, but this semester with the added stress of condensing an entire subject into one semester. 

Teenagers are just as tired of dealing with the pandemic as the adults in their lives, yet may not have all of the tools they need to manage all of their feelings and disappointments, all with the added burden of possessing a keen awareness and understanding of what is going on in the world. All of our kids are living through unprecedented challenges right now. I’m hoping the heart project will add a bit of light to their lives! 

My tradition in the past has been to buy them a small box of chocolates. Last year, they went mostly uneaten! I’m hoping this will be more meaningful. 

Does this sound fun, but you don’t have time to make hearts? Use sticky notes. Even a simple card on Valentine’s day with a note about how much you care about them I’ll bet would mean a lot!

Sometimes wellness means lifting our family, too. Do you have any traditions for Valentine’s Day with your kids? I’d love to hear about it! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

Second dose update: Tales from the ones who went first

First of all, I am incredibly grateful and lucky to have received the Pfizer vaccine. I’m also incredibly fortunate that the company I work for had the resources, knowledge, and structure to implement a successful vaccination plan for its employees. 

After my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, waiting for 15 minutes for the all clear that I’d passed the window for an allergic reaction.

For those of us who have received the vaccine, most are in direct contact with COVID+ patients. Others are exposed on a daily basis to the community at large due to teaching, essential work, etc. An interesting phenomenon? Feeling guilty about getting the vaccine. I’ll admit that at times, I wonder how I got so lucky, especially since I don’t work in the ICU or ER. However, treating a few patients last week who were COVID+, I am relieved that I have more than just my PPE to defend myself. I am now fully vaccinated. If you’re lucky enough to be offered it, don’t waste the opportunity!

It’s been well documented in previous posts my decision making process in getting the vaccine at all, and then how the second round went. I updated the second post to add that I did have a much stronger reaction the second go-round. This was to be expected and, in fact, a welcome sign that my body had an appropriate, albeit unpleasant, response. My story is not unlike that of my colleagues. 

So, what were the issues? As follows, after the second dose, most people reported:

  • Arm soreness that appeared more quickly. For the first dose, it was about 12-18 hours after, lasting about a day. The second dose, this soreness appeared within hours, and seemed to last longer overall. 
  • Chills. Most of my colleagues reported this issue about 12 or so hours after the first dose. This only lasted a few hours. This sensation may or may not have been accompanied by a fever. My highest recorded temperature with chills was 98.8, but I had a couple of colleagues who spiked fevers over 100 degrees. 
  • Brain fog. Again, a fairly universal complaint. Arising a few hours after the injection, and lasting about a day. This was most apparent while performing detailed work like documentation. 
  • Temperature regulation issues. Hot flashes were common. For some of my colleagues, it was the same day; others, like me, had this the next day. 
  • Headache. Some of my colleagues reported a headache that responded well to ibuprofen. I actually started day two after with a mild headache and took a dose of ibuprofen myself.
  • For those who had Covid recently, their reactions to both doses were anecdotally worse than those who likely don’t have antibodies to the virus.

For me, for most of day 2 after my second dose, I felt amazing. No pain. No fatigue. Great mood. I actually went out after work and ran my fastest 5k in months. I was not the only one of my colleagues to experience this sensation. I honestly wish this gift to all who get the vaccine!

I came across this article about why some people with Covid-19 don’t have symptoms, and it was fascinating. It has to do with the spike protein of the virus binding to pain receptors, essentially nullifying any sensation of pain. This is a very sophisticated virus. It still doesn’t answer the question about why some of those infected have no symptoms, and others have severe effects. But since the vaccine utilizes the spike of the virus as its tool for stimulating the body’s immune response, was this the reason why I felt so amazing? Had my white blood cells working to recognize the spike also pass the binding information to my pain receptors? Or was it the early morning dose of Advil to stave off a potential headache? Who knows. Any effects from the ibuprofen would have certainly worn off by the time I ran that afternoon, though!

The most important thing to understand is that everyone I know who has received both rounds of the vaccine have had a full recovery from the immune response. And, well, yay for 95% immunity! I feel very lucky, indeed. 

In Virginia, we have moved into phase 2 of vaccine administration: group 1b. I’m so excited to see pictures of my friends who are teachers and non-hospital based healthcare providers with their CDC cards! Don’t know where you fall in line with receiving the vaccine? You can visit the Virginia Department of Health website or for that of your state for more information. The Good Rx website also has a page with multiple links to resources, including national pharmacies who are ready and waiting to administer the vaccine when it becomes available to the general public. 

As far as the rollout is concerned, there are already problems. It’s been slow, and seemingly chaotic. According to usafacts.org, only 16.2 million Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and only 2.8 million have completed the series. That’s less than 1% of the nation who are fully vaccinated. There are many who have already missed their second dose. There are already reports of shortages of the vaccine.

And another hurdle? The shortage of skilled clinicians who are available to administer the vaccine. I had this conversation with a fellow runner who has been volunteering for the State of Virginia’s Medical Reserve Corps testing, and now vaccination clinics. I now have 2 friends who are a part of this effort! She says it’s been really challenging to find nurses and pharmacists who are not working elsewhere and are available to assist with these clinics. So, the plea by President Biden for retired medical professionals qualified to give injections to help is warranted. 

Speaking of President Biden, I’m encouraged by new federal leadership taking over, hopefully forming a more organized rollout of the vaccine than we’ve had thus far. We need to give the new team, including a new CDC director, time to get their acts together, as the transition was not smooth at all. In fact, it was well into January before they were allowed access to vaccination data. I’m happy to see Dr. Fauci in his element and able to speak freely about science. I’ve even seen posts rolling out from the US Department of Health and Human Services providing science-based information regarding COVID-19 on social media. Amazing. Science is real. Public health education actually works. We just have to provide it. 

A welcome sight! Public health information from the federal government on social media.

For those of us who are generally following the rules, wearing masks out in public, avoiding large social gatherings outside of our quarantine circle, it’s enormously frustrating to see others who deny science and don’t do their part to control the spread. I have been guilty of losing my patience in the grocery store when I see maskless shoppers. This phenomenon has been dubbed “panger.” And trying to explain the benefit of wearing masks even to some of my patients who question the practice is often like talking to a brick wall. 

Even though the vaccine is rolling out, we still must follow public health measures to control the spread. We still don’t know if those who are vaccinated can still carry the virus. And based on the numbers, we have a long way to go before we reach herd immunity. We also don’t know how the emergence of new strains will affect the efficacy of the vaccine, although scientists are optimistic for now. We will have to wait and see. 

Feel free to use this graphic.

If you’d asked me 5 years ago if I would expect to be a part of the biggest epidemiological experiment in history, I would have said no. Yet here we are. There are still evolving answers to how much, how long, and what type of protection the vaccine affords us. I still feel better having it, though. If you are waiting for yours, I hope you gain access soon. 

Have you received both doses of the Covid vaccine? If so, what was your experience, and which one did you receive? I’d love to hear about it! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

Just breathe….

Hallelujah! We have a shiny, new President and the first female Vice President of the United States. Both of them have the experience, temperament, and appropriate focus to actually lead this nation out of darkness. It felt like it took forever to get here. 

“We must end this uncivil war.”

President Joe Biden

The tyranny and error of the past 4 years is hopefully over. I spent most of that time feeling anxious and in disbelief of all that had been revealed about the ills of our country. He gave misogynists and white supremacists permission to come out of the shadows and into the mainstream. Because of him, we have an attempted rapist on our Supreme Court. Because of him, we have a resurgence of white supremacist groups in the form of Proud Boys, etc. Because of him, we had an attempted coup, aided by sympathizers in our own government. In my conservative county, Trump flags fly almost more than the American flag. And just Monday, flyers with swastikas were posted all over the small town of Ashland in my county. It was one last, desperate attempt to scare those fighting for social justice. 

Pearls in honor of my sisters in the Panhellinic Council (my sorority’s jewel, too!) and Chucks for Kamala!

But ladies, watch out! Make sure you’re wearing your shoes. There’s glass everywhere! Kamala Harris has broken the glass ceiling! I enjoyed seeing posts from my friends who are Alpha Kappa Alpha members like Kamala. My best friend from graduate school is not only an AKA sister, but also a fellow alum of Howard University, just like Madam Vice President. I thought about them all day. Like them, I also wore my pearls and Chucks on Inauguration Day. We have much to owe Black women in restoring our faith in American democracy.

What a beautiful ceremony! I’m grateful I had the day off to watch it all live. It was lovely, despite the weirdness of the circumstances as the dangers of the pandemic and threat of violence from white supremacist terrorists loomed, forcing limits to the crowd size. 

Although I loved Lady Gaga’s interpretation of our National Anthem, and I appreciated the performance of Jennifer Lopez, I was most impressed by the poetry of Amanda Gorman.

“The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Amanda Gorman

Such poignant words from such a young soul. I remember the idealism I possessed at 22 years old. But by no means did I have the wisdom and way with words to express my feelings like Amanda. She is simply outstanding. 

I was admittedly nervous that something terrible would happen to prevent this day from culminating. But I’m relieved that the inauguration is complete. Let the work begin. There is much to do. Because now, the status quo is not enough. We must be better. We must seek and demand justice and truth. We must drive hate back into the shadows from which it came. And we must find the light. 

But at last, I feel like our country has leadership that’s here for the people, not for sheer power or to reap the benefits of office for themselves. That, in and of itself, is light. 

I hope you are finding the light this week. As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.