From A to Z, What I Learned During a Global Pandemic

In early March 2020, life changed as we knew it. We were dealt the card of immediately living life during a global pandemic. Most people on the planet had never faced anything like this, since the Pandemic of 1918. In late February 2020, I had read about COVID-19 starting to afflict people in the Northwest USA. When I went to the dentist on Feb. 27, 2020, I asked my dental assistant for a mask. She quietly gave me one, tucked in my bag with dental floss, tooth brush and paste. After spending the weekend with my mom in Carmel, IN, on March 1st, I flew from Indianapolis to Palm Beach…with my mask ON. Asked to pinch hit for another speaker, on March 3 I flew to Houston to speak. When I walked in to the large, hotel conference room, there were more bottles of sanitizer on the tables than there were seats/people in the room. At that moment, I knew something was extremely different. As soon as I completed my speech on March 4, we wrapped up the work conference, and ALL meetings with travel were cancelled. I flew back from Houston to Palm Beach on March 4, and didn’t get on an airplane again for over a year.

Felt it would be wise to capture, “What I learned During A Global Pandemic?” And, let’s do it with the simplicity of “From A to Z”.

Here we go…

A: Always be ahead. We were always thinking ahead. At the beginning of the pandemic, we went grocery shopping very early in the morning, when less people were there. Then we switched to having the groceries delivered via Shipt. We drove north to get our COVID vaccine in early March 2021, when our age group just kept waiting in Florida. We were “all in it together.” Again and again, we stayed ahead, whether it was double masking before the CDC recommended it, or ordering N95 and KN95 masks. In late October 2021, we got our booster shot as soon as it was approved by both the FDA and CDC.

B: Bikes and electronic bikes became all the range. Since the country shut down in March and April 2020, and employers encouraged many of their employees to work from home, cars and trucks were driven less…and so we started biking more to get outside, away from the house and get some exercise. Bike shops were slammed, as people were cleaning out their garages, pulling out their bikes that hadn’t been ridden in years.

C: Care for yourself. And if that means have 3X to 5X the vitamin C that you normally have, then do it. Early on during the pandemic, I intentionally met with two natural health doctors, and they provided a list of things that could be done to help increase immune response. Sauerkraut, pickles, vitamin D, garlic, walking, sunshine, get and wear an Oura ring to measure activity and sleep, etc. I continue to consume more garlic and Vitamin D & C over a year and a half later. New cooks were born, as cooking at home and on grills drastically increased, while restaurant spending dropped substantially. The quarantine reminded us of the importance of our kitchens and backyard grill and smoker.

D: Daily devotionals were implemented, as I found not one but two devotional books given to me years ago from my sister in law (Candy) and my high school best friend (Suzanne). These devotionals helped center me, knowing that if I did get COVID, I’d be ok…heading to heaven. How did I find these devotional books? Going thru every box that I had in the house and under the beds. And during this quarantine, the DOGS definitely won; they loved that their owners were home…all the time…being walked and well fed, and many had new homes.

E: Educate yourself. We read more than just the news. We just kept saying, “we’re in a pandemic, so stay educated.” We watched the case count closely, the of deaths, and which age brackets were dying, and why. Then in 2021, we had extreme focus on reading the various vaccine results (that were approved for the three vaccines), which then migrated to who was getting vaccinated, and then watching the break-through cases closely. Education for our kids and college students changed substantially; kids were trying to learn thru Zoom classrooms…ultimately fell behind. College students graduated early, as the college experience dissipated in to thin air, or didn’t return to campus. Many Americans didn’t have an “Emergency Fund“, and now millions of people realize they need one for the future. So many people lost their jobs within days of mid-March 2020, and had nothing in reserves. Oh, and did I mention that eating at home soared. We ate at home ALOT. And actually enjoyed it.

F: Fraud was alive and well. With the abundance of gov’t aid that was made available in the Payroll Protection Program, people were tapping in to these forgivable loans. With so many people at home utilizing the internet for commerce, fraudsters were all about scamming any and everyone, including the elderly. Freedom took on a new meaning, as some Americans wanted the freedom not to wear a mask (in federally mandated areas like airports and airplanes) and to not get vaccinated. While other countries and global peoples were begging for life-saving vaccines, our freedoms in America were killing people here, even though the vaccines were free and masks were widely available.

G: Gratefulness was something that we embraced, as we were able to do some things at home that we hadn’t planned to do (organize every box in the home, go thru photos and greeting cards). Gardening spiked, as people realized that if they were home, why not start a garden with some herbs, vegetables, etc. Gun sales skyrocketed; many people deep down were scared, unsettled, and felt the need to care for themselves, especially with the 2020 Presidential election and the Jan 6, 2021 insurrection at The Capitol.

H: Home was our fortress. Worked from home. Exercised at home. Remodeled our homes in FL and IN. Stayed home and didn’t travel. Now more than ever, people realized that health mattered; many COVID patients who ultimately died were obese, older, inactive, diabetic, or had pre-existing conditions. We all learned the importance of taking care of our health.

I: Don’t be an idiot. We wore our masks. We kept our distance. We used sanitizer. We wore gloves in stores and when we pumped gas. We didn’t bring up our stance in public; we just did what we needed to do to remain healthy, and be respectful of others. Adjustments were made to our auto insurance. Why? Because we were driving less. Crazy, who would’ve thought we would have ever gotten an insurance credit during a pandemic? We became much more aware of our immune systems, asking frequently what could we do to improve our immune strength. ICU units were slammed with intubated patients in the summer of 2021, with unvaccinated patients. Doctors became weary, tired, and disgusted. Vaccines were proven and free, yet millions weren’t getting vaccinated.

J: Unlike the Pandemic of 1918, this COVID pandemic did not attack young adults and juveniles. COVID was especially hard on our seniors. It was my priority to send masks to my parents, keep my distance when around them in 2020 during their 60th anniversary party outside of their home and for a quick visit inside their home in Kentland, IN. Job losses were quick and vast in March thru June 2020; and thousands of those jobs will never return. And employees now view “jobs” and “work” differently; employees want to be paid fairly, and they want flexibility. I have realized that I don’t need to travel for all my coaching work, and yet I can still be quite successful and helpful to those that I coach.

K: Pandemics can kill 100’s of thousands of people very quickly. Many had underlying conditions, but COVID killed them. They could no longer breathe, their lungs were filled with COVID. Kids missed proms and homecoming, athletic events, singing auditions, theater performances, as schools were mostly operating virtually.

L: Longing set in quickly. Longing to go to a restaurant, a sporting event, or even a wedding. The longing started to dissipate once the vaccines were approved and available in early to mid 2021, and people became more confident to travel via airplanes, instead of safely in their own car, like I did during multiple trips back and forth from Indiana to Florida. Leadership lacked. And leaders lied about the seriousness of COVID early on; they knew it was an airborne disease.

M: Masked up, and during late 2020 and early 2021, we double masked up. And wore two masks when we were on airplanes in 2021. Masks were darn near free, fancy ones costs no more than $10 each. Masks that wouldn’t fog up my glasses were a premium.

N: Nursing homes were infected quickly, from the aids and nurses who were actually caring for the patients in early 2020. Nursing homes had COVID outbreaks, and 1,000’s of seniors died in the early months of COVID due to a lack of understanding and also a lack of quality control. Nurses in the ICU units, in the winter of 2020-2021 were our heroes. By the summer of 2021 with the surge of the COVID Delta variant, nurses and doctors were exhausted, taking care of people who chose not to get vaccinated. Meanwhile at home, Netflix viewership increased, as we were at home, binging on all types of films and series.

O: We kept our opinions to ourselves, mostly, and only shared them with very trusted friends and a few in our family. Online usage skyrocketed, from working online to shopping online to teaching online to trading online. Who knew that people would start online trading accounts, and put their money to work in the stock market?

P: Never dreamed that a pandemic would be so polarizing, and so political. But it was. We persevered, and did what we needed to do to stay healthy and safe. We were patient, as the pandemic didn’t go away in two weeks if everyone stayed home. The campaign of “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” worked in March and early April, but then business owners started pushing the limits, opening up, and serving customers again. And people became eager and cranky to get back to their normal routines in life, at the expense of risking their own life, or the lives of others in their own household.

Q: Qanon and conspiracy theorists became a new “word” and a group of people. Never had ever heard of them. Hope to never hear from them again either, but sadly, they are here to stay.

R: The real estate market sputtered in March and April 2020; appraisers didn’t know how to value homes in this pandemic. Then, in June 2020, the real estate market took off, prices rose, people had been in their homes for 2-3 months straight, and found that they either didn’t like their home, or wanted a new home, or wanted to relocate, or remodel the one they were in. Routines are important in every human’s life. And those routines were completely disrupted. Lastly, RV sales and usage took off. People realized that they could work from anywhere, so why not travel, see the country, and work during the day via Zoom meetings and conf calls…as long as you had internet access.

S: Realized that I just needed more sleep. Pandemics and changes in our routines are exhausting. I slept more during the week, and I could because I didn’t have to get dressed up for and then commute to “work”. People saved money. They were getting stimulus checks from the Fed Government, and then not spending on restaurants and travel. Savings rates soared! In the future, if you’re sick, stay home. If you have the flu or the sniffles, stay home!

T: Togetherness was in full force. Whatever unit of people was in your home at the beginning of the pandemic, you were together. As we all became more comfortable in the summer and Fall 2020 and learning how to live with the pandemic, we would eat outside, keep our distance, and enjoy others. Tik Tok became so popular, that even nurses in COVID units were making time to rehearse, video and release their gigs on Tik Tok. Air travel, train travel, subway, Uber and bus travel all declined drastically, as people weren’t comfortable being in close proximity to others, prior to the vaccines being available. Travel picked back up, once vaccines were being put in arms. Technology thrived; stay on your tech game. Don’t fall behind with tech, ever. And always trust yourself, after taking time to educate yourself on what to do.

U: Up, stock up! Who knew that toilet paper and ammunition would be hoarded? But indeed, that’s what happened. Me on the other hand, I wanted peanut butter and crackers, because I knew I could live on that for a very long time. Utilize everything in your cabinets, from spices to canned goods to utensils and appliances that had been under-utilized.

V: Vaccines were wanted, and we got three approved for use in the USA. And then when we got them, millions of Americans chose not to get vaccinated. Meanwhile, around the globe, fellow humans were begging for them. Domestic violence increased, as family members were quarantined at home and were forced to deal with other. Violence has continued to soar, especially gun violence, as the pandemic appears to affected many people with depression, anxiety, and stress. Some vax-resistors have also been violent to flight attendants on planes. Who would have ever predicted that we would get violent toward a flight attendant, all because of a $3 mask…and yet these same people just went thru TSA pre-check, put on their seat belt on the plane, and agreed to not smoke on the plane.

W: Washed our hands, and indeed we do still, alot. We sanitized our hands. We washed our clothes after being out and about. Walk, walk, and more walking. I realized that walking was the key to my sanity during the entire pandemic. It got me moving, enjoying the outdoors, clearing my head, and allowed me to listen to audible books or give a phone call to family and friends.

X: XRays and optional, non-priority medical procedures were delayed, cancelled, and postponed for months. Diseases went undetected. Cancers metastasized. Mammograms, dental cleaning, and eye checkups didn’t happen for a year or more.

Y: You, Yourself, and I. Only you can take care of you. I really learned and appreciated the value of good physical, emotional, and spiritual well being.

Z: Zoom became a one word brand that everyone knew what it was: remote and virtual business meetings, which then turned in to happy hours, conferences, family gathering, etc. As the pandemic loomed on, well into 2021, Zoom fatigue happened. People were tired of staring in to a screen, and faking like they were paying attention. Keep your zeal for life, and your zest to learn, adapt routines, and become a better human being during a pandemic.

Jen Wilfong 10/24/2021

Cookies For My Dying Neighbor

My neighbor, Larry, just died of stage 4 aggressive cancer. It ate him up in just a handful of months. Larry was a tenant in a home that I owned, just two doors away. Then, Larry became a neighbor. He really became a friend and someone that I could talk to about business, trends, family, and overall spiritual growth.

Last Sunday, Oct. 3, was the last time we communicated. I texted him, “Hey there. You feeling ok? I have some cookies for ya…from some friends.” He responded, “I’ve got nurses here. Not feeling great. I’ll have to take a rain check.”

On Wednesday evening, Sept 29, I dropped off some Whole Foods chocolate chip cookies. He sent me back a text with the prayer hands.

On Monday evening, Sept. 27, I texted him, “Do you need anything? smooth foods? Gatorade?” He responded, “You’re awesome. No ma’am. Thank you.”

On Saturday evening, Sept 25, texted him, “How ya feeling? How is Luke (his youngest son) doing?” Larry responded, “Terrible.” “Luke is doing awesome. Thank you for checking in.”

On Sunday, Sept 19, we had some donuts and peanut butter cookies left over from our tailgate. I asked him if he wanted any, he said, “No thank you. I appreciate it!”

In mid September, Larry had his gas utility turned off. Something happened, bills were slipping past due, and not being paid. We did get him approved thru rental assistance to receive $1,800 for his October rent; thank goodness, in hindsight, that was helpful and will be helpful giving his family some time to go thru his things here in October. As we filled out all the paperwork for that rental assistance, he said, “And I’m a cheap bastard…I can’t help myself, I like free stuff…Don’t judge.”

On Sept 10, Larry paid his rent in cash. And while backing out of the drive, he sideswapped my mailbox. He was embarrassed, and said he would fix it. I knew he couldn’t and wouldn’t, so I just straightened it up, no problem. It was at this point, one month before he died, that Larry just wasn’t Larry anymore. He was falling behind. He was trying, but struggling. But I just kept offering him cookies. To help soothe whatever pain he was in.

On Sept. 9 he texted me…”I have cash…I had cash yesterday & today. I always have cash. That isn’t ever a problem. I’ll skin ya in the a.m. (pay you) Big Mamma…I’m confused easy these days-if it isn’t about work or hustlin’…I didn’t pay my water bill for three months, unbeknownst to me.”

While we were in northern Michigan for Labor Day weekend, I texted Larry, “Can I bring you something specific?” He responded: “Blueberries Jam. Please!! Any kind of jam! PB & J’s all day for me!” Think about that for a minute. You’re 46 years old, struggling with cancer, and you’re excited about PB&J’s. So when we arrived from our Michigan road trip, I took over his blueberry jam, and also gave him a blueberry cream cheese danish. He responded with a text, “Ohhhh my gooooodness!! Dude…Since having cancer, I’ve been obsessed with food, and I had a great day today, I made some good money, today was an entire blessing. But, it pales in comparison to this damn danish…You are so kind to me and I appreciate you guys so much. Thank you. Thank you.” And then he went on…”I’ve been kicked in the head by everybody that supposedly loved me…dealing with this all alone, ain’t easy…I’ve had so many people close to me do me dirty since I’ve been sick. It would absolutely blow your mind. I’ve got just a handful of people, who are new to me, within the last five or six years – who have been more precious than people that I’ve known for years… Thank you.”

Homemade punkin pie for Larry before Labor Day? He loved it, and I was on a smooth food diet too, and he didn’t even know that nor why. His son just started at UIndy, and it was their first football game in Chicago. Larry didn’t go, because Luke didn’t dress for the game.

Cookies again on Sunday, August 29, and then on August 31. Larry visited a buddy at IU Health, who had cancer, convincing him to take his pain meds and do chemotherapy. Then he came over, I made him an old fashion drink, and we sat on my back patio from 745pm til 900pm, talking about going in to business together, with the explosive opportunity in electric vehicle charging stations. He was convinced there was opportunity in one-EV charging station, that could have double spot charging. He texted me, after our convo, “You, Ms. Wilfong! Are gonna be a big deal!! YOU!!”

On Saturday, Aug. 28, Larry couldn’t get off the couch, not feeling well. He wanted to drive my new Tesla, that I picked up on Friday, August 27. He had an idea for me, not him, but for me.

Cookies again on Aug. 19, as Larry just couldn’t make it to my birthday party on Aug. 21. As he texted, “…I can’t be around people, a hamster fart would literally kill me right now…I have no immune system, no white blood cells…”

Even on August 4, cookies were the answer. I texted Larry that I’d swap him cookies for rent. He responded, “NO!! Just give me the damn cookies!!”

And more cookies on July 31. Sugar cookies this time. And July 27, he sent me a video. “You wouldn’t understand completely the dialogue but this is the video I just sent my sons-my soldiers…Thank you very much I appreciate you checking on me. Refuse to die, I need to live.”

On July 22, just a few days after I had a small bowel attack on July 19, I made punkin pies. Gave one to Larry, and also made another batch of cookies for him. On Monday, July 12, dropped off more cookies, and some cherries. As he explained, he was getting sick and tired of those shakes and pudding.

On July 7, I finally told Larry, a colon cancer patient, that I didn’t have a colon (lost it in 2000). He texted back, “Ohh wow!! I didn’t know that. You’re my inspiration!”

On July 4, Larry shared results of 2nd and 3rd opinions, “it’s advanced stage for colon cancer. That has metastasized pretty much everywhere, encompassing all major organs, mid to lower GI regions. However, my heart, my lungs, my brain, and central nervous system are intact and strong.” I was sending him my daily devotionals in early July and he loved it, was grateful and kept reinforcing, “you are a blessing to me daily.”

On June 29, Larry shared with me his prognosis. “You’re my dear friend, whether you like it or not. So, I feel completely comfortable telling you this…hold onto your hat because it’s a doozy. And I’m at complete peace with the information I’m going to disclose to you. The fight has not even begun!! So here is the prognosis: I have incurable squamous cell carncinoa stage 4. It is a very fluid, active and rapidly spreading cander. It is considered untreatable, because the advanced stage 4…the care will be Palliative Care.”

In mid-May, I saw neighbor Larry, who had lost a lot of weight. Not having any idea what was going on, I gave him a compliment and then picked him up a couple pair on new shorts, that would fit him a bit better. He said on May 31, “they fit excellently. Thank you!”

That’s all I knew to do: offer him cookies, comfort foods like donuts, punkin pies, and a blueberry danish. I didn’t know anything else to do. Just offer him cookies. And nearly every time, over the course of July, August, and September, he gobbled them up with gratitude.

What are you doing with those who may be dying with cancer? I sure don’t have the answers, but I do know that Larry loved those cookies. Feed ’em cookies 🙂 And regularly let them know you are thinking of them. Check in on them.