Until We Meet Again

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Me & Wanita in September

With a global pandemic going on and race-based protests happening coast-to-coast, it has been challenging to remember that real life is still going on out there.

Emotions are frayed, people are uppity, and confusion is the new norm. The fact so many people are complaining about the violation of their personal rights when they are asked to wear a mask is ridiculous on its own but it has led to in-person and social media arguments that have ended friendships and led to more anger and tension right now.

The global economy is suffering and there are many, many questions about the viability of restaurants and other small businesses. Hell, large chains are suffering, too with closures thrown in our faces every single day.

But real life is still going on.

Families have other things to deal with on top of covid19 and protests and riots.

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Wanita & Byron in September

Like the fact my friend, Byron, lost his wife to stage 4 metastatic breast cancer almost 2 weeks ago.

Ugh.

Wanita was only 48.

That’s just way too frigging young.

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Me, Melody, Cair and Wanita at our house a few years ago

This post is about Wanita and how she fought hard, bravely, until a recent Monday afternoon up in a hospital in southern Alberta, with her husband finally allowed to be by her side. It is about a really cool, unique woman with an independent streak and a mind of her own with the balls to say “fuck cancer” whenever she could.

Wanita and I have known each other since our school days in Grand Forks, BC.

She was among a group of friends who stayed close through marriages, college, moves, career changes, new aspirations (golf!) and our kids/pet-kids. I ran off on a sunny afternoon to stand by her side when she and Byron exchanged their vows and she introduced me to Greyhounds that very day.

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Wanita in the upper L, Melody upper R and Jim and Adrian below… grad class of 1989

Wanita had a smart brain although she didn’t really enjoy high school. She excelled in the real world.

She wasn’t really into sleep overs or the student council or shopping at the mall in Kelowna. Her time to shine was with Byron by her side as a bright adult geared towards making herself better. She educated herself on everything she did, whether it was learning the game of golf or what her particular disease was going to do to her.

Like us, Byron and Wanita never had any children. They have an extended, well-loved family who was a huge part of their support system when Wanita first started to fight cancer. They also have 3 absolutely amazing exotic felines who enjoy camping trips and evening walks.

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Spartan Race in Bigfork, MT in 2014!

She was gutsy and ballsy enough to really get into her fitness and all-around health a few years ago and even started doing those intense Spartan races. We were able to connect with her and Byron that year even though we never saw her compete. (Who knew we wouldn’t be able to find parking? The attendees at those things are cray-cray!)

I couldn’t believe the things she told us were a part of the obstacle course when we eventually met up in downtown Bigfork that afternoon. I knew, though, if anyone could set their mind to something and work their ass off to accomplish it, it was Wanita.

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I can’t remember what on Earth we were laughing about here…

Just like she went about trying to beat cancer.

She researched the disease and a multitude of treatments and went to chemo and took the pills and gave herself injections and continued playing ladies’ league golf and learning yoga all while being a devoted wife and pet-parent and blogging about her experience fighting this monster.

Her disease was a ‘triple negative’ version of breast cancer. I wish she was here so she could explain it all a little more one more time. She fought her oncologist, the Canadian system and any nay-sayer who stood in her way. She wasn’t going to accept an end-stage diagnosis and that is just Wanita.

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Cair, Wanita and Melody with us at Lindey’s steakhouse!

Wanita loved a good meal and we got to share a few over the years. She and Byron enjoyed dining in Vegas as well so it was a lot of fun to share two of our local restaurants with the girls when they visited a few years ago. Lindey’s steakhouse is always a hit (as long as you’re not vegan…!) and we also managed a fun night at the Double Arrow lodge’s restaurant, Seasons.

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All of us at Season’s!

While Lei-Anne didn’t get to join us that particular trip, and the weather was cold and wet and not at all conducive to hiking our magnificent forest behind us, it was a great time for us to all catch up with our lives without jobs or kids or anything else to distract us from one another.

Wanita supported all of my zany ideas and career choices as my own live evolved over the many years we have been friends. She didn’t bat an eye when I went off to veterinary school and she was a steadfast supporter of my books.

When the opportunity to attend a large book event in her home town of Lethbridge was made available I checked the dates with her and booked it, without hesitation. We knew of her diagnosis at that point last year but she was doing well, was playing golf and working out and they were excited to share their kitties and new home with me. And we even got Lei-Anne there, too!

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Wanita, me and Lei. My support team during Word on the Street last September.

We spent awesome quality time together before, during and after the book fair but these ladies were by my side most of that entire day (including during the video session off in the library where Wanita had to guide us where to go.) We laughed, we hugged, they told me not to give my books away, and then we were joined by a few more friends and a dear cousin and we all had supper out at one of Wanita and Byron’s favorite restaurants. More great food, more laughter with friends.

And as much fun as the book event had been, my favorite part of the trip was spending a day on Wanita and Byron’s golf course, Picture Butte, before spending the night with them and the kitties in their new home.

Wanita and I shared a late-blooming love of the game. We both became golf addicts not that long ago who mostly love playing with our husbands while wearing Loudmouth golf skorts.

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Loudmouth golf skorts at Picture Butte… me in Hello Kitty and she in skulls… that’s how each of us rolls and it worked for us for years!

It was the first and only time we ever got to play a round together and it was full of sunshine, laughter, music, yummy snacks and great shots (especially when she holed-out from way back on the fairway early on!)

We had a great meal at their condo that night (butter chicken & rice!!!) and we pulled out the old yearbooks from GFSS and laughed and talked and shared for hours (while playing with Odin, Freya and Morrigan, too!)

We talked cat-talk and allergies and meds and we reminisced about the time she saved one of my American friends traveling through Alberta whose truck died at the border and the Americans wouldn’t let them back in. Wanita selflessly brought food for them and their dogs and helped Marjorie off the ledge.

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Wanita and their fabulous feline kids in September!

We hugged and said our goodbyes after coffee and cat-cuddles the next morning and that was the last time I saw my friend in person.

The girls and I had been planning a visit earlier this spring until covid19 got in the way. Provincial and Federal borders closed, preventing any of us from getting to Alberta to see her. Thankfully Cair set up a Zoom session just a few weeks ago and we got to all laugh together and talk about our worlds. Wanita told us how her breathing was an issue whenever she would exert herself thanks to the new, intense chemo regimen she was on.

They had begun a very aggressive trial of chemicals because they discovered earlier this year that the cancer had spread.

Everywhere.

It was in her spine, her pelvis, her scapulae, her femurs, and her ribcage.

It wasn’t in her heart or her brain, though, so she continued to research and battle her disease.

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Taking aim a few years ago.

She had one blood transfusion to give her strength and another one was planned for sometime after our Zoom call.

But her breathing got worse and she could barely make it up 5 or 6 stairs and she couldn’t stay oxygenated and her lungs were damaged and Byron took her to the hospital during a global pandemic. He and her mother weren’t permitted to see her until the last few days where doctors told her it was only a matter of time.

Wanita and I messaged throughout it all and Byron and I did as well. He was scared because the love of his life was leaving him and there wasn’t a damned thing he could do about it.

Wanita shared a final farewell to everyone on social media 3 days before she took her last breath with Byron by her side. It was so hard for him but so important for him to be right there when there was nothing more he could do for the most important person in his life.

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Wanita and Sport- she definitely had a thing for the exotic kitties of the world.

Thanks to covid19 they had a drive-by celebration of life in the park I got to see that is right in front of their cute new home. Byron is planning on bringing her ashes to our home town in August for many more of us to share in celebrating one tough woman we all knew and loved.

I hope Canada will allow me to cross the border by then.

Until that time we will all continue to check in on each other and share our thoughts.

Because that’s all we can do, really.

And I can give my friend and her husband and their tremendous love for one another this tribute of my own that tells our story as well as their story.

And Wanita’s story.

Because she was one Helluva spirit that we were so fortunate to know and I wish you could have known her, too.

RIP, Wanita. Much love, Byron. xo

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September, 2019

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Bigfork, MT, 2014

 

 

 

Come Together by Staying Apart

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My buddies in Isolation Nation

I didn’t make the title up. I got it from watching a video some guy  named Sheldon Watson made that is circulating the web via social media right now. Its a 2 minute video of Vancouver, BC, sort of one of my home towns, and its showing the stark reality that is Isolation Nation.

Canada seems to be getting it, at least. I’m proud of Canada and my Canadian friends and family who are going as equally stir-crazy as those of us Americans right now. No different than my friend and her family in Israel and my cousins-in-law in Scotland.

The video starts with an empty Lions Gate Bridge (!!!) and includes images of downtown Vancouver as well as the Burrard Street Bridge with nothing and nobody on it. The visual of the lone jogger on the sea wall was pretty intense, to be honest. It ends with the nightly clanging of pots and pans and cheers and whistles as Vancouverites support one another through this really difficult time.

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Long walks with the barn cats. No more dogs means you take your cats for a walk.

I am so proud of so many people right now. We have come together by staying apart to keep the most vulnerable among us alive and keep our medical systems from being overwhelmed. You can’t say this virus isn’t real. By the time I finish this blog, more than 40,000 people will have died in 8 weeks in the United States alone. And that’s WITH social distancing and gutting our economy.

I am sad, though, when I see the protesters and how close they are to one another with stupid signs and ridiculous chants about our rights & freedoms. It isn’t your right to congregate and pass along a very infectious, potentially lethal, unseen virus and then go and see my husband at his Walk-in clinic and get him sick.

He is over 60. Healthcare workers get bombarded by this virus, often while not even knowing it.

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Helena, MT rally today protesting Covid19 restrictions. Photo from MTN news.

But here they are, even in Montana, protesting without wearing masks or gloves and thumbing their noses at our state’s restrictions. Governor Bullock will decide this week what he’s going to do about “re-opening” the state (restrictions are set to end on the 24th of April.) We have 433 confirmed cases as of this morning and 10 deaths.

Our hospitals have not been overwhelmed because people have adhered to the stay-at-home policies. Curves have not flown off the charts and many have leveled a little, even in places like New York City.

Flattened curves, however, don’t mean the end of Covid19 spread. Not at all! We just slowed things down so that we don’t have to see the visuals of doctors and nurses wearing garbage bags flying around, patients in hospital beds lining hospital hallways and refrigerated trucks backing up to load the overwhelming number of bodies before the morgues and funeral homes can take them.

I have tremendous empathy for the folks in New York City and I take some comfort in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s briefings. He doesn’t sugar-coat anything and he shares his own empathy. I am so sorry for what their health care system continues to go through and I am so thankful we hopefully will see nothing like that.

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More from today’s protest in Helena, MT. Photo from MTN news.

These rally/protest photos show people maybe sort of making a distancing effort but they aren’t all 6 feet apart. No frigging way. No gloves. No masks. Hey, Buddy with the cell phone… you going to wipe down that screen and then touch your face and breathe your possibly diseased air onto T-shirt there while shouting out the violation of your rights & freedoms?

How about my husband’s rights & freedoms?

Or my friends who are getting aggressive chemo right now for their cancers?

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One of those very good friends… (xo, you guys)

I won’t be supporting anyone who wants to gather right now but I will support you in your struggle to maintain your sanity.

I get it.

I really do.

We are, as a nation and as a planet, scared.

And yet the planet is breathing a sigh right now because of the lack of airplane and vehicular traffic. Perhaps we will all realize we maybe don’t need to travel by car or truck as much as we have been.

Perhaps we can take this time to stop and really, truly think about how beautiful it is that we have made the effort to stop the rapid spread of the virus. Many of us are reaching out to our friends and loved ones more regularly than before. I have got to  know some people way more than I did before during screen time and because we are all reaching out.

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More friends at the farm during Isolation Nation

One friend today simply asked us all how we are doing and how we are coping. She got a lot of heartfelt responses (along with one, “this virus is BS” post.)

It is not BS.

It is real. It is deadly. And I worry the fuck out of my husband being on the front lines in this country.

And he worries about bringing it home to me, too. While we are lucky we aren’t caring for elderly parents and we don’t have children in the house and we live at the end of a very long road that borders forest service, he still worries about me.

I will admit that I had a fever and chills when he was here the last time and I was up all night freaking out about it (like Chris Cuomo has talked about during the virus’s rampage through his own body… the anxiety likely leads to even more sweats and more chills and despite the need for sleep it continues to elude you.) (Perhaps the Sandman, himself, is self isolating!)

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We did socially isolate together on a quiet golf course a couple of weeks ago… masks were on whenever people were nearby and the carts were heavily sanitized.

A day or 2 after my night of (I’ll admit it) fear (and sweat), Alistair got the call that one of his patients from his last time back had tested positive. They are trying to keep him from the testing side of the clinic but it IS the same clinic and the same parking lot and the same waiting room.

So did I have it? Maybe. I am asymptomatic and feel great. I never had a cough and my temperature was normal the next morning. I am 47 and don’t have any underlying conditions and I eat well.

Can I get it again if I had it? Nobody knows. Its a NOVEL virus. We’re all figuring this out as we go here.

Rest assured, if you see me out in public I will be wearing a mask and gloves. And I will stay the fuck away from you.

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More “friends” in Isolation Nation here in my office.

I shall continue to try to post things that I learn and things that do not create hysteria. I will continue to be a real life voice from someone living this and from what my husband sees. His hospital’s models predict Bismarck will peak in mid-May. That’s still several weeks away so you will continue to not see me if I can help it.

I can do it. We have a lovely house and there’s that forest service and long driveway to hike. There’s the barn kitties, the indoor kitties, the Bee Gees and Fyfe’s Ornithological Society. I have my journal (I encourage you all to journal! Its healing, you can write whatever you want, nobody is going to check your spelling/grammar and it won’t be judged), I have my fourth book to finish, and I have recipes to play with.

I also have my sense of humor and my loving husband to talk with on a daily basis as we both give each other strength despite missing one another terribly.

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I tried ground beef stroganoff last week and it was really, really good!

If you don’t have coping mechanisms then please reach out. Find someone to talk to or just send a private message.

Try to keep your head up and know you are not alone. Be like the Vancouverites who have turned the vibrant, beautiful city I know and love into a ghost town. My stepson, Gareth, lives there and he has shared how proud he is of the city for closing itself down.

Be #vancouverstrong, be #montanastrong, be #whereveryouwantobestrong.

But do it wearing a mask and gloves and from 6 feet away from me, please. Better yet, just stay home.

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D’embe. Socially distancing himself from Jockey.

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Jockey. Returning the favor.

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Poor Professor Higgins, though, is a hugger. “Can you pick me up, please, Mummy. Lift with the knees…”

 

 

Isolation Nation

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Not overly worried about TP but we do have other concerns!

These are trying times.

Unfortunately, things aren’t going to get any better.

Its mind boggling that people in leadership haven’t been paying attention to what was happening around the world and its also mind boggling how many people in the general public are not treating the Coronavirus seriously.

But this blog isn’t about placing blame or looking in the rear view mirror. Its about looking forward and learning how to survive living in Isolation Nation right now!

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Dr.Hubby getting called back to work in ND early last week

You see, the medical community is ramping up in ways most of us have never seen in our lifetimes before. They are individuals who can’t choose to live in Isolation Nation outside of their jobs. Doctors, nurses, rad techs, CNAs, receptionists, janitors… they, along with restaurant workers, truck drivers, the police force and many others have to go to work to keep society running right now.

Retired medical workers have been asked to consider coming out of retirement because we all know the providers working the front lines (like Alistair at his Walk-in clinic in downtown Bismarck) are going to go down at some point.

The province of Alberta sent out emails asking for veterinarians to go onto lists for back-up medical coverage for when/if that happens. Alberta borders Montana to the north and even with the borders closed to non-essential travel its not like the virus knows its a different country.

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the other Dr.Fyfe in Bismarck 2 days ago

This is a front-line physician’s reality right now.

Alistair does not have to wear that mask but its a mask that might save him from catching this thing. The smaller surgical masks are nowhere near as protective as this bad boy!

He also wears it so that when your grandpa with COPD who had hip surgery a couple of months ago comes to see him for a sore shoulder, he doesn’t give it to him on the very high chance he does contract Coronavirus.

Here’s the thing- we need to just stay home.

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This is not staying home (not my picture) (thanks, Amy)

The doctors don’t want you all sitting in waiting rooms spreading disease around because this bug is going to ramp up this coming week like nobody’s business. If we all get sick at the same time we most certainly do not have enough hospital/ICU beds to care for us all. By staying home and avoiding one another we can hopefully prolong the spread of this disease over time and not overwhelm the medical system and drain all of the resources.

Not that everyone gets ill enough to require care in the ICU. I appreciate that and I feel well enough, myself, and I’m under 50 so hopefully I would be fine, if not even asymptomatic. But that’s another reason to stay home- you might have the damned virus and not know it. You could be spreading it to every cashier or nurse you come into contact with!

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Costco last week (not my picture) This is NOT social distancing

Call it self-isolation, call it social distancing, come up with another cute term, whatever you want. Just. Stay. Home.

“But how?” you might ask.

For starters, just do it.

“But how do I survive?” you then inquire.

Okay, well, here’s where I might have some things to suggest. If you have kids you will have your hands full and I get that. I can’t relate but I get it. Home schooling is something most of you are probably doing right now and there are all sorts of on-line things available to help you with that. Online museums and concerts are also out there to enjoy with kids, too. You don’t have to sit at a tablet all day, either. Kids in school don’t sit in one spot all day so allow some movement and breaks.

Maybe introduce some home economics type of learning right now!

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Home Ec class in the Wright home in Alberta! (not my picture) (Thanks, Nat!)

Crafty moms can work on cooking or sewing classes (seriously, these masks!) Handy dads could take the time to teach oil changes or basic carpentry right now. Kids are resourceful and often eager to learn new skills, especially ones that they can utilize as adults later on.

Just keep the family together and don’t do play dates or shared learning right now. Remember- stay home!

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Andy… one of my roommates while in Isolation Nation

Pets also make terrific room-mates and maybe now is a time you can do some more close bonding with them. The Bee Gees got a full cleaning of Quebec after their own baths today and then they stayed out a bit longer than normal because, why not?

I spend more time outside in the mornings when I let the barn kitties out and I take longer to play/visit with them when I put them in at night. On a beautiful day like today I sit outside with them looking at the blue sky and melting snow.

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This afternoon’s front door view

Maybe take some time during this self imposed break from reality to practice meditation or yoga and/or develop a real appreciation for nature. If you live in Seeley Lake like I do then there is plenty of nature to fall in love with again. You can even hike and explore nature with your family and dogs but please, please, please don’t do it in groups!

Its hard to be away from people, especially if you are a true extrovert. I am not sure if I’m an introverted extrovert or an extroverted introvert but I can honestly say that I love my time at home with the beautiful forest outside our back door.

While all indoor gyms and sports should be halted right now, there is one outdoor activity that is almost geared at avoiding people- golf!

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Socially distancing ourselves on opening day at Canyon River last week!

If you stick with your roommates and drive in the same vehicle and share the same golf cart and practice some basic rules, golf can be an okay activity at this time (and its great to be outdoors!)

New rules, though: 6 feet away from people; wipe down your cart; don’t share clubs or borrow anything from another golfer (tees, balls, ball markers); don’t remove the flag; don’t toss your partners their ball (don’t touch their ball!); give & take gimmies; try not to let your ball drop; don’t sign credit card slips; no clubhouse visiting; wash your hands. And, when you’re done, go home and stay home.

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Scott’s yummy salmon steaming away!

How about doing some learning of your own while you’re in Isolation Nation? My online Rouxbe cooking courses are awesome and I’ve missed doing them. Hopefully I can catch up on a few of them again. (www.rouxbe.com) I never steamed salmon before Rouxbe and last week I got some filets out of the freezer and they were delightful!

There are all sorts of companies online and even on Facebook that offer cooking courses as well as online education where you can learn all sorts of new things. We are never too old to learn something. Remember to take breaks from the screen, too, to refresh your eyes and think about the things you’ve learned.

Learn about wines! Learn about history! Learn about architecture! When everyone eventually gets back to work you won’t have the time and you don’t want to be looking back thinking, “Gee, why didn’t I do something like that?”

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Another roomie snuggling up with me last night

Something everyone in the family can  do while exploring Isolation Nation is to start a journal. I’ve kept a journal since I was 8 and I have recently started to be far more consistent for awhile now. (Some of that has to do with my new pens… good grief, a new addition- check out The Sparkle Trail- Sparkle Pens on Facebook and tell Katherine that Tanya sent you!)

Keeping a journal right now is a great idea for all sorts of reasons. It allows you a safe space to share your absolute true feelings. It lets you get those feelings out of your head which can be quite freeing and therapeutic. It also creates a place to return to when you face challenges in the future- something to remind yourself how badass you had to be when Coronavirus began its crusade around our planet.

It is also a piece of history for when your children and their children hear of COVID-19 and the stock market crash and how so many countries faced frightening times.

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My current journal (from Whitney!) and one of my sparkle pens by Katherine!

Definitely don’t let your self-care go by the wayside right now.

Our physical and mental health are important during these trying, often frightening times. Walk with family (away from people) or take an afternoon drive with your partner. Have a family dance party in the living room. Cuddle all of the pets and give each one individual time- I’m sure most pets are loving having their humans home right now!

Please check on any seniors living nearby or friends who have a bunch of kids at home and even single friends who might be away from family. A phone call, a text or a private message may be the one contact they have on a day and we need to protect each other from the loneliness that can creep in during an unprecedented time like this.

And if you do have to go out… please, please, please stay 6 feet away, don’t shake hands, don’t hug, wear gloves, wear a mask, cough into your elbow and then get home and wash your hands and maybe your clothes and stay home.

Keep the ICU beds available for the young woman who needs a C-section or the folks who were in a car accident. Those things are still going on right now and they have to share the care with Corona-virus victims.

Thank-you, everyone on the front lines and in those jobs where you have to work.

Be well. Be safe.

And stay home.

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I had to get in for a vet appt yesterday but I made sure to try to protect myself and my clients!

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Professor Higgins is loving Isolation Nation!

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I love you, Hon! Be safe and thank you for working on the front lines for us all! xo