LIVING WELL IN NORTHWEST GUILFORD COUNTY published by ps communications
6 Survey: Positives gleaned from the pandemic
8 Weight loss for life 10 Staying mentally fit 14 Braces, aligners aren’t just for kids
16 COVID’s lingering effects 18 Healthy Trivia 19 Study participant hopes to contribute to the cause
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Gleaning positives from the pandemic Improved work/life balance, more time with family and friends, and new hobbies are among the beneﬁts some of our readers gained from the pandemic that rocked our world
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Compiled by ANNETTE JOYCE Rarely can you talk to anyone whose world wasn’t turned upside down by the pandemic that surfaced in the spring of 2020. Although it was a very unsettling time that for many was marked by fear and sadness, there is definitely something to be said about not wasting the suffering – for it’s at those times that we’re given the opportunity to learn what’s most important and grow from our experiences. When reflecting on the treasures that came from the rubble, people we spoke with for this survey told us the pandemic caused them to take a fresh look at their lives and eliminate things that had simply been weighing them down. At the same time, many of them found ways to improve their quality of life by doing things like finding more meaningful work, being more intentional about connecting with those important to them, and discovering new hobbies and talents. Thanks to the following readers for their responses to the question “What positives were you able to find amidst the negatives of the pandemic?”
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Bobbie Gardner and her husband, Jay, didn’t waste any of the downtime created by the pandemic. In fact, Bobbie believes their productivity might have even increased. With plenty of room on their Stokesdale farm to start cultivating a few crops, the couple started an orchard, added a garden and began canning the fruits of their labor. They also took up beekeeping. “I learned from my parents how to raise a garden,” Bobbie said. “They grew up during the Depression and taught me to be selfsufficient.” Bobbie had always wanted to be involved in dog rescue and used the opportunity of more time at home to do just that. “We’ve given a home to four sweet fur babies,” she said. Along the way, she discovered a few things about what really matters to her. “Being on the go all the time lost its importance. Little things became more important,” she said. “Taking the time to appreciate family and friends. We also have a greater appreciation for where we live and are grateful for what our parents taught us.”
The popularity of online audio and web conferencing platforms such as Zoom soared during the pandemic, when many people were searching for ways to stay connected to family, friends and co-workers.
“As much as we say we are ‘Zoom fatigued,’ the pandemic has given us other ways to connect with people without the need to travel,” said Casey Crossan, a resident of Oak Ridge. “The normalcy of Zoom created the opportunity to host a monthly support group for bereaved parents around the world who otherwise wouldn’t be able to connect,” said Crossan, who lost her 11-year-old son, Conner, to osteosarcoma in April 2018. She said the support group has been meeting for two years and is planning an in-person retreat.
“Without COVID challenging us to engage with others virtually, I don’t know if my peers would have felt comfortable with an online group,” Crossan said. In the fall of 2019, David Haynes took a beginner’s acrylic class taught by Greensboro artist Jennifer Floyd Donley. It was a four-hour class on painting pet portraits.
Although Haynes had no art experience, he decided it might be fun to paint a portrait of his two cats as a surprise gift for his wife. At the time, the Greensboro resident had no idea the impact this short class would have. “It felt natural, and the encouragement the teacher provided gave me the interest which led to a wonderful hobby during COVID,” Haynes said. “I fell in love with painting and haven’t been able to put it down.” An independent long-term care insurance specialist, Haynes was already working from home; thanks to the pandemic, however, he had much more time on his hands. He filled those hours with learning about and practicing his new interest. “I spent hundreds of hours watching YouTube videos,” he said. “I discovered so much about mixing colors and the technical aspect of painting. There’s a real science to it.” Since then, Haynes has painted over 300 pieces. He’s given many as gifts, donated some to charitable auctions and sold many others. Although he started out painting his pets, Haynes has expanded his work to include landscapes and plants. Most recently, he’s also developed an interest in painting churches. “The churches provide a spiritual, honorable calmness,” Haynes said. “My signature includes three tiny crosses hidden in each painting to remind me and the recipient of the love God provides and that He is the one who gave me this talent.” In order to deal with feelings of isolation, Oak Ridge resident Val Kepley began reaching out to friends on social media. “I was able to reconnect with a lot of friends I hadn’t been in contact with for a while and rekindled those relationships,” she said. “I discovered just how important those
friendships are and realized I need to put in the time and effort to keep them strong. That’s something I’m working on and have made it a point to meet up with friends at least once a week.” While many people complained about gaining weight during the pandemic, Summerfield resident Olga Andreescu was one of the few people who lost weight. “It took two years, but I’m very satisfied that I went from 165 pounds to 145 pounds,” Andreescu said. Finding herself stuck at home almost 24/7, the former ballerina decided it was time to do something about the extra pounds she’d added over the years. One thing that had to change was the type of exercise she was doing. Prior to COVID, she and her partner had spent a great deal of time hiking. “We used to hike a lot with our dogs, but with so many people flooding the hiking trails we needed to adjust our outdoor activities,” she said. She found new satisfaction in yardwork and spent many hours
continued on p. 22
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During the pandemic, David Haynes discovered a passion for painting.
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According to the CDC, even a modest weight loss of 5 to 10% of a person’s total body weight can decrease risk factors for chronic diseases related to obesity. Health benefits associated with weight loss can include improvements in blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugars, and weight loss is often attributed to a long list of other positives including increased energy and mobility, enhanced sleep, less prescription medication, better moods and increased self-esteem.
Photos courtesy of Martha Ford
Weight loss for life
Thanks to local residents Martha Ford of Stokesdale and Max Gardner and Albert Howard of Oak Ridge for sharing their weight loss journeys with us in this annual edition of To Your Health. We hope you’ll be inspired by their stories as much as we are!
Determination nets a 70-pound weight loss After dropping from a size 16 to a size 4, Stokesdale resident Martha Ford says determination helped her lose her excess weight and is helping her keep it off By ANNETTE JOYCE
One of the things Martha Ford absolutely hated about being overweight was shopping for clothes. “When I would try on clothes, I couldn’t find any that would fit me and look good,” she said. “I was disgusted with myself.” After losing 70 pounds, Ford doesn’t worry about that anymore. In fact, these days she even shops online with confidence. As an example, she recently reached out to her 23-year-old daughter for
help picking out a dress for an upcoming wedding. “Katie sent me a photo of a dress and shoes and I just ordered them online,” Ford said. “They fit perfectly. I’ve never been able to do that in my whole life, and it feels so good!” While being able to find well-fitting, attractive clothes was a factor in starting her weight-loss journey, Ford, 58, was also spurred on by the death of her best friend’s husband. “He was in his early 60s and had diabetes and all kinds of health issues,” Ford said. “He spent 115 days in the hospital before passing. It was a wake-up call. I saw myself getting bigger and headed in the same direction.” In March 2021, Ford was searching for a solution to her weight problems when she ran across a photo of another friend on Facebook. The last time Ford had seen her friend she was
Martha Ford before she made the decision to lose weight – for good. Martha Ford (left), shown here with her husband, Leon, is a radiant mother of the bride. After losing 70 pounds, Martha dropped from a size 16 to a size 4.
quite heavy, but she had obviously lost a substantial amount of weight in the time since. “She looked like a teenager,” Ford said. After reaching out to her friend, Ford learned she was using a program that included prepackaged foods that were size proportioned and balanced in vital nutrients. The more Ford learned, the more excited she became. By the end of the conversation, she had signed up for the program and her first package was on its way. The program required eliminating sugar and processed foods from participants’ daily diet. Once a day, Ford ate a “regular” meal which included grilled chicken, steak or fish that was supplemented with salad and lots of veggies. Although she faithfully followed the program, Ford admitted those first two weeks were really “awful,” and she thought about quitting more times than she could count.
weight),” she said. Ford reached her goal weight this past January and has been in maintenance mode ever since. She attributes much of her success to healthier eating and portion control. Her preferences for what tastes good have also changed. For example, she now finds the French fries she once loved to be “just too greasy.” She still uses the packaged shakes and bars that sustained her as she was losing weight, saying she likes the taste and they fill her up. They’re also convenient, and she can grab one when she’s on the go and know she’ll be satisfied. It was determination to lose the extra weight she was carrying that made all the difference in her success, Ford said. And now that she’s lost the weight – and gone from a size 16 to a size 4 – she’s just as determined to keep the weight off and eat healthy for life.
Out with the bad habits, in with healthy habits Max Gardner lists having more energy, no knee pain, and increased mental clarity among the positives he’s experienced since dramatically changing his eating and exercise habits By PATTI STOKES When he was younger, Max Gardner was physically active and in shape. He played multiple sports, including football, wrestling and running track, and he could eat anything he wanted – including a regular diet of fried foods, desserts and sweet tea – without being overweight. As with most people, things changed as he got older. “Our eating habits don’t affect us the same way when we’re younger,” the Oak Ridge resident and local business owner
After embarking on a life-changing journey six months ago, Max Gardner of Oak Ridge has shed 60 pounds, is stronger and more ﬁt, and says he has 50 to 60% more energy than he did before.
“Everyone around me was eating whatever they wanted,” she said. But as she adapted to her new way of eating, things got easier. It also helped a lot that her husband and daughter started eating the same meals. As the pounds started coming off, Ford turned her weight loss into a game. Along with seeing how much weight she was losing, she also enjoyed seeing how many inches were coming off. She dropped an impressive 10 inches from her hips and from her waist and was amazed that she lost two inches from her neck. As the weight melted away, Ford’s co-workers and friends took notice and began asking how they could get the same results. It wasn’t long before some of them were signing up for the program. Ford liked the idea of being able to help others so much that she became a certified independent health coach. “I wanted to help people not feel the way I felt (when I was over-
Photo by Patti Stokes/NWO
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said. “But as you get older your life changes, and work can take you away from a lot of activities. Even the type of work you do changes. At first, I did everything in my business, but now my work is more sedentary.” A much less physically active lifestyle combined with a high-fat, high-sugar diet led to a weight gain of many unwanted pounds over time. About 12 years ago, Gardner decided to make some lifestyle changes. “I started going to the gym all the time and was careful about what I ate. I was growing a business, but I was also (weight) training with a friend.” But when his friend quit going to the
continued on p. 20
Reducing the risks for dementia Although the underlying causes for cognitive diseases are unknown, scientiﬁc research has found that healthy lifestyles and exercising the brain may reduce risks for developing dementia By CHRIS BURRITT NW GUILFORD/GREENSBORO – Ten elderly people sitting around a long conference table in Greensboro earlier this month shared concerns about developing dementia. One by one, they explained why. Some said they don’t want their forgetfulness to worsen, making it harder to keep up with essential items like car keys and eyeglasses. Others want to stay sharp mentally so they can continue living independently in their homes. Dawn Long, 83, said she’s “thinking for two people” because her husband is already suffering from early stages of dementia.
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While some health-related issues cannot be prevented, research has shown there are several eﬀective ways for people of all ages to take care of their mental health and stave oﬀ dementia in their later years.
“If both of us lose it, we’re not going to be in a good place,” she said. Essentially boot camp for the brain, the gathering sponsored by
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Greensboro-based Well-Spring Solutions illustrates one of the biggest concerns for aging people. Are they going to draw the short straw, medically speaking, and develop Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia? The class recommended four steps to jumpstart not only the mind but also enhance a general sense of well-being: eat healthy, manage stress, regularly engage in physical activity and exercise your brain as well as your body. “You can substantially reduce your risk for many age-related illnesses, such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease,” Jodi Kolada, Well-Spring Solutions’ director of business and caregiver outreach, told the group. As a guide, she used “2 Weeks to a Younger Brain,” a book by Dr. Gary Small, director of the Longevity Center at University of California in Los Angeles. “Many of today’s health and conditioning programs focus on physical strength and body image, but ignore the vital importance of brain fitness and mental sharpness to staying youthful and mentally fit,” the introduction to the class said. “If you stick with it, you’ll notice better memory abilities and feel
younger and stronger.” A search of the internet shows many sources of information about memory loss and potential ways to slow the deterioration. Some cite the National Institute on Aging (NIA) as an authoritative source of scientific information and advice for people living with dementia and their caregivers. “Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in older adults,” reads the website of the NIA, the primary U.S. governmental agency supporting and conducting research about the disease. “It is a progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. It is not a normal part of aging.” Alzheimer’s disease afflicts about 60-70% of the more than 55 million people living with dementia worldwide, according to Harvard Medical School. About 10% of the disease is referred to as young onset, starting before age 65. “By age 60, more than half of adults have concerns about their memory,” according to a Harvard Medical School special report on improving mental fitness. Not only does
the loss of memory complicate practical living, but it also threatens to dim or wipe out “our internal biographies – the stories we tell ourselves about what we’ve done with our lives,” the report said. “They tell us who we’re connected to, who we’ve touched during our lives, and who has touched us,” the report said. “In short, our memories are crucial to the essence of who we are as human beings. Age-related memory loss, then, can represent a loss of self.” Concerns about declining thinking and memory skills rank among “the top fears people have as they age,” Harvard said. “However, minor memory lapses that occur with age are not usually signs of a serious problem, such as Alzheimer’s disease, but rather the result of normal changes in the structure and function of the brain.” People who are concerned that increasing forgetfulness may signal the onset of dementia should see a primary care doctor knowledgeable about cognitive changes, according to Dr. Cheryl Greenberg. As founder of Greensboro-based The Age Coach, Greenberg holds a doctorate in educational gerontology and memory change in older adults. Part of her work with senior citizens and their families involves presenting workshops at facilities such as Countryside Village Retirement Community in Stokesdale. Medical examinations, cognitive testing, brain scans and other procedures are “looking for memory changes that interfere with the ability to carry out independent daily living,” Greenberg said in a recent interview. Doctors are looking for signs of disease progression, she said. “If my keys were constantly lost when I was 29, the fact that I’m losing them today is not alarming,” she said. “If I lose my keys on Tuesday and I lose my keys on Wednesday and I lose my keys on Thursday, then I’m getting concerned.” Doctors also want to rule out “reversible dementia,” or memory lapses caused by treatable symptoms such as infections, dehydration and depression, Greenberg said. In such instances, people recover cognitive skills.
“In a true dementia, as the disease progresses, memories eventually go away and they don’t come back,” she said.
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The irreversible course is not only painful for people suffering from dementia, but also for their loved ones. “When somebody begins to develop a dementia, we want to stop it; we want to do something to change the course,” she said. “But if a person has a dementia, we can’t stop it.” In recent years, research by scientists has advanced the understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and led to the development of several prescription medicines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration which help manage symptoms in people suffering from the disease. Other medications are in late-stage clinical trials, according to the NIA. “Most medicines work best for people in the early or middle stages of Alzheimer’s,” the federal agency said on its website. “However, it is important to understand that none of the medications available at this time will cure Alzheimer’s.” Scientists also believe genetics play a role in the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Lifestyle and environmental factors also play a role, according to Dr. Karen Pollard, a Greensboro neuropsychologist. “If you have poor cardiac health for whatever reason, that can put you at increased risk” of developing Alzheimer’s disease, Pollard said in a recent interview. “Some of it is the environment, some of it is genetics and some of it is the un-luck of the draw.” Pollard runs Brain Power Advisors, which helps business leaders and other individuals assess cognitive strengths to advance their personal and professional lives. Early in her career, she worked with elderly people, conducting neurological testing to determine mental strengths that could help them navigate cognitive decline.
continued on p. 22
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Local orthodontists we spoke with said their number of adult patients has increased signiﬁcantly in the last 10 to 15 years By ANNETTE JOYCE When I was growing up, wearing braces wasn’t nearly as common as it is today. In fact, only a handful of my friends wore them. Even though my bottom teeth were extremely crowded and crooked, I don’t remember being too self-conscious about them because most everyone else’s teeth looked pretty much the same. I didn’t consider doing something about my teeth until I graduated from college and had a job that offered dental insurance which covered the cost of braces. With the financial part of the remedy largely covered, my journey to correct my teeth began. That journey came to a screeching halt, however, when the various orthodontists I spoke with began explaining their treatment plans, which involved extracting several teeth and enduring skin grafts. At that time, the only option for straightening my remaining teeth were metal braces with wires that broke and poked the inside of your mouth and gums. I decided I’d keep my teeth just they way they were.
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Clear aligners such as those shown above left have become a popular option for orthodontic patients, especially adults, because they are less noticeable than traditional metal braces – but they can also extend the treatment time and be more expensive. Plus, in more complicated or severe cases of misalignment, traditional metal braces may be the only eﬀective option. Thanks to recent advancements in orthodontics, metal braces now come in various styles that are more attractive, aﬀordable and eﬀective. That was decades ago, and the field of orthodontics has since made significant advancements – so much so that more and more adults are finding their way to an orthodontist. In fact, according to the American Association of Orthodontists, “one orthodontic patient in five is an adult.” Local orthodontists we spoke with said those statistics are likely even higher in northwest and northern Guilford County. Dr. Matt Olmsted, owner of Olmsted Orthodontics in Oak Ridge, estimates that 35% of his patients are adults. Dr. Mark Reynolds, who owns and operates two Reynolds Orthodontics locations – one in Summerfield and another in Greensboro – said he has seen as much as a 300% increase in his practice’s number of adult patients over the last two decades. “When I started 20 years ago, it was probably 10%,” he said. “Now, it’s about 40%.”
When we asked why so many adults undergo orthodontic treatment later in life, we were told the answers vary depending upon the patients. According to Olmsted, some adults needed braces as a kid, but they were cost prohibitive for their families. “They eventually decide to do it for themselves – sometimes to mark a significant milestone such as an anniversary or a job promotion,” he said. Then there are those adults who wore braces as kids and their teeth straightened, but unfortunately, they didn’t adhere to the orthodontist’s emphasis on faithfully wearing a retainer. Others learned the misalignment of their teeth could lead to other health issues and possibly even the loss of teeth. Amanda Warren has seen firsthand the impact that orthodontic treatment – or the lack of it – can make. The Kernersville resident works as a dental assistant for Morse &
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Doyle DDS in Kernersville. “I see the results of not having proper bite alignment and clenching and grinding your teeth,” she said. “I wanted to avoid having fullmouth reconstruction.” Warren decided to get orthodontic treatment to correct a deep overbite and several misalignments of her teeth. “It was causing wear on my teeth in odd areas, which could have impacted me in the future,” she said. Reynolds often sees these “functional” issues in his adult patients. “A lot of people have grown up with crooked teeth, but they weren’t bothered by them aesthetically,” he said. “Later, they find out their teeth aren’t aligned properly and seek orthodontic treatment.” Advancements in technology have made it much more appealing for adults to seek orthodontic treatment at a later point in life. Invisalign clear aligners were introduced several years ago and are now a popular corrective option for many adults. These removable aligners are much less noticeable and often more comfortable than traditional metal braces.
Olmsted points out that while the majority of his patients do well with Invisalign, these aligners are not the solution for everybody. “I have patients who needed metal braces due to the complexity of their case,” he said. “Also, there are others who felt that braces are easier and they didn’t want to keep up with the aligners.” Dental 3D scanners have also had a tremendous impact on both the fields of orthodontics and dentistry. “My patients really appreciate that they don’t have to deal with those nasty impressions anymore,” Olmsted said. “Now it’s just a matter of running a wand around the teeth.” In addition to the 3D scanner, Reynolds uses a Cone Beam CT scan which captures a 3D X-ray of everything from the neck up while using only 10% of the radiation of a regular CT scan. “It shows us how your jaws and teeth fit together and gives us a clearer picture as to what’s going on,” Reynolds said. “We catch a fair number of patients who have undiagnosed sleep apnea.” While they said they enjoy working with all age groups, Reynolds and Olmsted note there are
distinct differences between working with adults versus kids. “Adults are very motivated and are willing to do what it takes to successfully complete the treatment,” Olmsted said. “Plus, there’s a lot of gratification. Adults are genuinely excited and expressive about everything.” Reynolds adds that adults typically take better care of their teeth. “They make the connection that the better they take care of their aligners or braces and the more they follow the rules, the sooner the treatment will end and the better the results,” he said. I recently learned firsthand about following the rules when I chose to work with an orthodontist and Invisalign aligners – which thankfully did not require extractions or skin grafts. My dental hygiene has improved immensely and I’ve become adamant about making sure my teeth are brushed and flossed. The pain and discomfort of wearing aligners was almost nonexistent, and I’m extremely happy with the results. I’m also committed to wearing my retainer long-term so that my teeth will stay properly aligned and my new smile will be with me for many years to come.
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In its third year, COVID-19 less deadly, still puzzling Even as the virus is claiming fewer lives, as many as three in 10 people who were infected are suffering from lingering ailments – just one of the mysteries medical professionals are trying to understand
By CHRIS BURRITT NW GUILFORD – Less than a week after his COVID-19 diagnosis in early 2021, Oak Ridge pastor Steve Roberson was headed to the hospital where he nearly died. Looking back, Roberson, 72, said the 31 days he spent in the hospital – including six on life support – remain a blur. A year and a half later, he still occasionally suffers from shortness of breath and a lack of agility when he walks. Even so, he said his survival was a blessing. Three friends who were pastors died from the virus. “The doctor said ‘it will be a long, drawn-out process. You’ve got to plow through it,’” Roberson, pastor of Union Grove Baptist Church, said in an interview earlier this month. After returning home from the hospital, Roberson ate pureed food until he was able to swallow again. He was so weak, he needed help standing up. Even though he’s returned to the pulpit, he wondered whether he’d preach again. The pastor’s illness and gradual recovery from so-called “long COVID” illustrate the virus’ lasting impact in the nearly 2 ½ years since onset of the pandemic. Even as
incidents of sickness and death from the disease are declining, most of us know people who’ve been infected by the virus – sometimes more than once – and others who died from it. “The pandemic isn’t over, but we’ve kind of reached a spot where we are coexisting with it to an extent,” Dr. Christopher Ohl, an infectious disease specialist with Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, said in a podcast earlier this month. “A lot of people are getting out and doing activities,” said Ohl. But he advised people, especially those with health problems, to wear masks when indoors. “Getting sick with COVID can still be serious business,” he said. Stokesdale accountant Kim Thacker has contracted the virus twice, the first time in January 2021 before she was eligible for a vaccination and the second time last month after she had been vaccinated and boosted. Thacker, 49, still hasn’t recovered her normal taste and smell. Otherwise, she has overcome her first infection, which she likened to being “punched square in my face” because of the severity of headaches and burning sensations across her forehead.
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For some people, loss of taste and smell are among the lingering eﬀects of a bout with COVID-19.
“Over the past 17 months, the only thing that I can eat that tastes the way it is supposed to taste is pickles,” Thacker said in an interview earlier this week. Not only did most of the food she ate taste like “cardboard,” but she said
certain foods, such as red meat, fruits or vegetables, smelled “rotten, rancid and horrible” even though the food was fresh. Last August, a Greensboro neurologist prescribed a seizure medication for Thacker. Though intended to ease bad smells and tastes, she believes the medicine may have helped restore to a small degree, gradually and sporadically, the normal taste of some foods. Thacker said she told her doc-
tor she felt guilty for seeking medical help for her problems, which she considered relatively minor compared to respiratory and other life-threatening ailments suffered by others. Three of her clients have died from COVID-19. The doctor “looked at me and said, ‘Stop. You have every right to feel the way that you feel. You have lost a quality of life that you’ve had for 49 years,’” Thacker said. She said she’s felt “teased” by the coming and going of taste and smell. Nine months ago, she dipped a bread stick in marinara sauce and, surprisingly, she was able to taste the sauce.
“It didn’t taste like marinara, but I got something from it,” she said. “I burst out crying. That was the ﬁrst thing I had tasted.” Since then, Thacker has been able to distinguish sweetness and spiciness in some foods and beverages, such as iced tea. Earlier this year, she developed a repulsion to butter, ice cream and other dairy products. Her taste has improved slightly after recovering from her second bout of COVID-19. Those are the sorts of steps – forward and back-
wards – that Thacker anticipates, though she hopes her taste and smell will eventually return to normal. For now, she said, “I’ve had to accept what’s going on with me. These are my new tastes and smells.” Aside from the medical consequences, the pandemic brought unprecedented social and economic repercussions as well as altered the political landscape. The partial shutdown of the U.S. economy and the temporary closing of schools and workplaces separated people from one another and their normal patterns. As health-related restrictions eased, the resurgence of the economy has left employers scrambling to fill jobs and sparked inflation. Not only has the sharpest jump in prices in more than four decades pinched consumers, it’s also emerged as a political weapon for Republicans against Democrats in advance of next year’s U.S. congressional elections. “Looming over all of this uncertainty is the possibility that new variants will emerge and undermine any collective sense of progress,” according to a report by the Pew Research Center in March, the start of the pandemic’s third year. “The public, for its part, appears to recognize that a swift return to life as it was before the pandemic is unlikely.” COVID-19 has claimed the lives of nearly
1.01 million people in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The virus-related death toll exceeds 25,100 in North Carolina and 1,200 in Guilford County, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The department’s data shows that northwestern Guilford County has emerged much better than some other areas, with 7,395 cases and 56 deaths related to COVID-19, based upon the primary mailing zip codes in Summerfield, Oak Ridge and Stokesdale. Trends at Greensboro-based Cone Health are tracking national statistics, with the number of hospitalizations related to COVID-19 falling sharply from a peak of 335 on Jan. 26 to 55 as of June 17. However, Cone hospitalizations have edged up since April, reflecting national increases partly due to infections from two Omicron variants. Even so, deaths related to the infection are relatively low. Statewide, they’ve hovered in the single digits on a daily basis since April – down from a peak of 247 on May 18, 2021. “The virus mutations are giving up some lethality in favor of increased spread,” Christopher Scheib, executive director of Cone’s enterprise analytics, said in a recent interview.
continued on p. 18
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On average, what percentage of an adult male’s body is water? A. Up to 95% B. About 60% C. About 70% D. About 80% Which of the following foods is rich in antioxidants, which protect your body’s cells against unwanted free radicals? A. bananas B. blueberries C. apples D. oranges About how many breaths do adults take in a minute? A. 12-20 B. 30-45 C. 5-15 D. 25-40 Why are leafy green vegetables like spinach, lettuce and kale so good for your body? A. They are a rich source of calcium, which helps build and maintain healthy bones and teeth. B. They are rich in iron, which carries oxygen throughout your body. C. They are rich in fiber, which increases the bulk and speed of food moving through the intestinal tract, thus reducing the time for harmful substances to build up. D. All of the above Which of these foods is not a fruit? A. pumpkin B. cucumber C. cabbage D. avocado
Answers: B, B, A, D, C, D
continued from p. 17 “You are seeing an increase of hospitalizations because a lot of people are getting infected,” Scheib said. “Fortunately, that doesn’t convert to a very high mortality rate right now.” Looking forward, he added, “While you are likely to see cases go up and cases go down – sometimes in large numbers – I would expect fewer of those to convert to hospitalizations over time.” The severity of COVID-19 has lessened as more people have gotten vaccinated. In addition, the immunity of people who’ve contracted the illness is also slowing its spread. Earlier this month, the CDC authorized COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as six months, widening the pool of people eligible for shots. At present, among North Carolinians 12 years and older, 70% are fully vaccinated, according to DHHS. The percentage is the same in Guilford County. “Vaccinations, and particularly booster shots, are continuing to provide broad protection against the worst outcomes of COVID-19, even as the virus keeps evolving,” according to an article last month in STAT, a health-oriented news website. “The majority of people have at least some level of protection against COVID-19 — from vaccination, past infection, or both — meaning that cases…are increasingly less likely to result in severe outcomes.” The typically milder symptoms associated with the Omicron variant have positive and negative ramifications, according to Dr. Jeffrey Greene, a physician for Cone’s LeBauer HealthCare at Summerfield Village in Summerfield.
On average, about how many taste buds are on your tongue? A. Between 100 to 250 B. Between 300 to 500 C. Between 1,000 to 1,500 D. Between 2,000 to 8,000
While milder illnesses and the wider availability of effective medicines are reducing hospitalizations and deaths, symptoms such as sore throats, coughing, congestion and body and headaches are leading some people to believe they’re suffering from the common cold or allergies. “That’s complicated recognition by our patients,” said Greene, explaining
that people who don’t realize they’re infected may be spreading the illness to people around them. When diagnosed with the infection, some people are surprised, and in some cases guilt-ridden, because of the possibility they may have infected others, Greene said. The doctor said he and his colleagues are diagnosing COVID-19 among patients who are unvaccinated, as well as those who have been vaccinated and boosted. Healthcare organizations such as Cone recommend vaccinations and boosters to guard against the infection. Vaccinations reduce the risk of severe illness and death among people who’ve contracted the virus, according to Greene. The doctor said he advises patients diagnosed with COVID-19 to follow CDC guidelines: they should isolate themselves for five days, and if symptoms are resolving, then they should wear a mask for five days to minimize the risk of infecting others. At Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, Dr. Ohl said, “Most people who are in our hospitals are still unvaccinated.” When people contract COVID-19, unvaccinated patients are more likely than vaccinated ones to suffer from the most severe symptoms of long COVID, according to Dr. Jake Lemieux, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and an infectious disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital. These post-COVID conditions – such as brain fog, shortness of breath and heart palpitations – affect an estimated 10-30% of people infected by the virus, including some who had no symptoms, according to the American Medical Association. How long symptoms persist isn’t known and has emerged as a focus of medical research aimed at improving care. “Every patient is different, every patient’s symptoms will be different, and potentially the treatment of every patient will be different,” Lemieux said during a consortium led by Harvard Medical School earlier this month. “That’s hard on so many levels – it’s hard to establish which treatments are best for which patients and, of course, it’s hard for patients.”
‘If I could help in any way find out what causes this disease, I wanted to do that’ After experiencing her mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s, Pat Russell of Summerﬁeld is determined to do all she can to stave off the disease while also participating in a study group to help researchers ﬁnd a cure for it and other memory loss disorders By PATTI STOKES Pat Russell of Summerfield unfortunately knows the anguish of Alzheimer’s all too well. Her late mother began showing signs of memory loss and
confusion as early as 2008, although it wasn’t until 2013 that she was officially diagnosed with the disease. “In 2014, there was a terrible weekend with my dad, who had MS and walked with a cane. Mom went out wandering and when my dad realized she was gone, he called the local police and fire departments. They found her in the middle of the night, almost stepping into a pond.” Her mother’s wanderings became more frequent, but Russell said her father was determined to care for his wife of almost 60 years in their home for as long as he could. “He hid a lot (of her behaviors),” Russell said. Eventually, however, her father acknowledged his wife needed a higher level of constant care than he could
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While researchers haven’t yet found an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s and other memory loss disorders, studies have shown there are things we can do to boost our brain health – including eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising, keeping blood pressure in control, managing stress and learning new things. provide and she was admitted into the memory care unit of a retirement community. “They had lock-down units, so she couldn’t wander – or ‘elope’ as they called it,” Russell said. “She was still kind of half with it and half not,
so she resisted.” Her mother was later transferred to a continuing care community where Russell’s sister worked, and was there until she passed away last November.
continued on p. 20
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‘STUDYING’ AGAINST DEMENTIA continued from p. 19
“Physically, she was quite healthy,” Russell said. “But she hadn’t known us for years – she couldn’t say our names. We often said that if we could have put Mom’s body and Dad’s mind together, we’d have a whole person.” “It’s terrible seeing someone deteriorate like that. It’s just a terrible disease,” she said. Although it wasn’t until last fall that Russell’s mother died, she said, “I feel like I lost her in 2014 – the vibrant mother who ran a household and took the grandkids to the zoo.” A few years ago, when Russell, who works in the healthcare industry, saw an ad for a healthy brain study group through Wake Forest Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, she quickly volunteered to participate. “I felt like if I could help in any way find out what causes this disease, I wanted to do that,” she said. As part of the study, participants under age 65 go through a series of tests each year that measure their physical and cognitive abilities, as well as complete lab work and other tests. “You’re monitored from year to year to see if you are losing cognitive ability,” said Russell, who will be 62 in July. “Luckily, I’ve been in the normal range so far.” She described some of the routine tests, which include reading from a list of 15 “random” items, then recalling as many as possible. Then, study participants read the list again. “Each time I can remember more items off the list,” Russell said. “By the end, I can remember 13 or 14.” Participants are then given other tests, and after about 15 minutes they’re once again asked to recall as many items from the list as possible. “In another test they read a story and you’re asked to recite as many things from it as possible, with as many details as possible,” Russell continued.” Another time you look at a drawing and then are asked to draw what was
in it from memory. In another, you look at pictures and name what they are – a lot of times with Alzheimer’s you can describe something, but not remember what it’s called.” Repeating a series of numbers forward and backward is another test. “It really gets your mind to thinking,” Russell said. “They also do balance tests – like gait testing. And they do lab work and check your blood pressure and weight, do a depression screening and ask about exercise and nutrition. So, it’s your total being,” she added. “On certain years they do an MRI, and you have an option to participate in having a lumbar puncture. It’s a very comprehensive series of testing – it’s actually quite amazing.” The testing takes about six to 10 hours a year, and Russell breaks it up into two or three sessions. “It would be mentally stressful to do it all in one day,” she said. Participants are given the results of some, but not all of their tests each year. When asked if she fears what the tests may one day find, Russell said she hasn’t been too anxious about that yet. “There was one year I knew I hadn’t done as well as the year before,” she said. “I don’t know if I just had an off day, but I felt a little better that I was cognizant of it. And then the next year, I did much better.” She recently read a magazine article that offered 10 ways to stave off dementia. “I felt really, really good after reading that article,” Russell said, “because it mentioned exercise, healthy eating and keeping your brain stimulated, and those are things I regularly do. I love to exercise. I do water aerobics, I play pickleball with friends, and I go cycling with a friend. And I enjoy socializing – my husband and I have a pretty busy social schedule.” As for the study group, she plans to participate as long as she can – and in the meantime, she said she’ll keep thanking God every day for both her physical and mental health.
Sorry, there’s no magic bullet. You gotta eat healthy and live healthy to be healthy and look healthy. End of story.”
– filmmaker Morgan Spurlock
WEIGHT LOSS: Max Gardner ever been,” he said. “That’s when I continued from p. 9
gym, Gardner lost his accountability partner and began to slip into old habits. At first, he only skipped an occasional early morning workout, but before long he was skipping a couple of days a week … and then it was a week at a time. Eventually, he stopped going altogether. “The 5:30 gym time is my time, but I was willing to sacrifice the one thing I gave myself because of being lazy,” he said. Once again, those unwanted pounds starting creeping up. One of his earliest wake-up calls came when he went out of town for a conference and forgot to pack his belt. His wife went shopping for one and bought the largest one she could find, but it was barely big enough. There were other reminders that his weight had gotten out of hand. Simple things like bending over to tie his shoes, or getting back up from the floor after working on something low to the ground had become difficult. And finding the energy to keep up with his responsibilities at home and at work had become more of a challenge. “My sleep habits were also not good,” Gardner said. “I would wake up tired and go to bed tired.” Although his periodic physicals at the doctor’s office hadn’t revealed any imminent health problems, he knew it wouldn’t be that way forever. “I never wanted to be a burden on my family, and I started thinking … if I develop a disease, that’s way beyond my control. But this is something I can control,” said Gardner, who will turn 58 this year. With that realization, he took the first step to get healthier last fall by returning to the gym. “But I didn’t change my diet, so I was still gaining weight,” he said, adding that over the holidays he “blew up.” “I weighed myself the day after Christmas and was the heaviest I’ve
decided it was time to get serious.” “Getting serious” meant going to the gym five mornings a week, before beginning his workday. “There usually isn’t anyone there the first 30 minutes. I enjoy the quiet time,” he said. “Exercise helps me clear the cobwebs out, and it gives me the energy I need for the day.” He works with a personal trainer to give him the encouragement – and sometimes, the push – he needs to achieve his fitness goals; on days he’s not in the gym, he walks several miles. He’s also dramatically changed his eating habits, with processed foods being the first to go from his diet. “They pack in a lot of calories and don’t do anything to fill you up,” he said. “I knew these things, but I just didn’t pay attention to them. I had to start looking at labels.” He’s intentional about striking the right nutritional balance between carbs, proteins and fats. On occasion he’ll eat pizza or a dessert, but only a fraction of the portions he would have once had. He’s found it’s critical to plan out his calories for each day and he’s mindful of meetings or other events that will involve food so that he can budget his calories accordingly. “I track everything I eat,” he said. “There are tons of easy-to-use apps, and they help me stay accountable. I record everything I eat before I eat it. Once you get in the habit, it’s not difficult.” His efforts have definitely paid off – over the last six months he’s lost 60 pounds. Although he still wants to lose about 20 more, he’s already attained his No. 1 goal, which is to get healthier. He admits he’s had some “slumps” along the way. “You can get discouraged when you’re doing all the right things, but the weight doesn’t fall off,” he said. “You can go a week or two and lose
a few pounds, then five pounds all at once. The trend is downward, but on a graph, it goes up and down… You have to be your own advocate, but you need somebody to encourage you.” Besides weight training and cardio, Gardner’s trainer works with him on mobility exercises, which include stretching, flexibility and balance. For those who don’t have a personal trainer or can’t afford one, he encourages them to go online. “You can get all kinds of training online with really good instruction – and it’s free,” he said. Besides exercising consistently, following a heart healthy eating program and drinking lots of water, Gardner has realized the importance of getting adequate rest. “I train better and lose weight better if I get the right amount of rest,” he said. Changing his attitude about food has also greatly contributed to his success. “There’s a reason we overeat, and we have to find it,” he said. “We often turn toward eating to eliminate stress. A better way to do that is in the gym. You can literally take your frustrations out while you’re working out and turn it into something positive.” Since committing to a healthier lifestyle, Gardner said he has experienced several positive changes. “I have 50 to 60% more energy,” he said. “My mental clarity is better. I feel like I’ve become more patient. Losing weight has also helped me have more confidence. It changes the way I carry myself. And now, when I need to do something that requires me to get down on the floor to do it, I don’t hesitate.” One more thing – “Sixty pounds ago, I thought I was having knee problems,” he said. “Now my knees are fine. It was the weight.” When asked for his advice to others wanting to lose weight, Gardner said to remember the changes they make will be for the rest of their lives, and while it will be tough in the beginning, “It does get better. You even get to where you look forward to it. It’s all part of the journey.”
Drastic measures net drastic results By ANNETTE JOYCE “I like getting older. I have a goal of living to be 96,” Oak Ridge resident Albert Howard said. About three years ago, the chances of him living that long were pretty unlikely. At that time Howard weighed almost 380 pounds and his heart was in A-fib (atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular and often very rapid heart rhythm that can lead to blood clots in the heart). Howard’s doctor told him that losing weight was his only option for treatment, and he recommended bariatric surgery. “I didn’t want to do it,” Howard said. “It was so extreme, so drastic.” But as he learned more about the surgery, which would shrink his stomach to 20% of its existing size, Howard, now 63, began to see the benefits. Before he could move forward, however, he had to meet some requirements. First, he had to attend support meetings for people who had the surgery or were thinking about having it. Seeing the results people achieved gave him the confidence that it would work for him. During this time, Howard discovered that a key to being successful was to have a strong support system. While the meetings provided an opportunity for this, he was told it was extremely important that a person’s family was on board. He said his family has been wonderful in helping him both reach his goal and maintain his weight. Next, he had to lose some weight on his own. “You have to lose weight beforehand to show you’re serious,” he said. “I lost about 30 pounds.” Howard then proceeded to surgery, where doctors used a “sleeve” to shrink his enlarged stomach. With a smaller stomach and no “hunger hormones,” he said it was relatively easy to stay on the restrictive food program that was required to reach his optimum weight. Within nine months, he had dropped 150 pounds – the weight of a whole other person – and was nearly unrecognizable. From past experiences with various eating programs, Howard knew the most difficult part wasn’t losing the weight, but keeping it off. He promised himself he would never let the scale
Photos courtesy of Albert Howard
(Above left) Weighing in at nearly 380 pounds, Albert Howard was literally eating himself to death.(Right) After a 150-pound weight loss, Howard – shown here with his great-nephew, Ayden – is enjoying life to its fullest. slip up to those high numbers again. His current eating plan is less restrictive than the one he used when he was in weight-loss mode. He eats most anything he wants, while counting calories and being mindful of his portion sizes. For instance, rather than eating an entire piece of steak or a whole sandwich, he will cut it in half and save it for another meal. “I love sandwiches,” said Howard, who owns five Jersey Mike’s franchises. “When I make one, I’ll immediately cut it in half and put it in the fridge.” Along with learning to be satisfied with smaller portions, Howard’s taste buds have changed. He eats much more protein than he used to, and one of his all-time favorites is Jersey Mike’s veggie sandwich. He steers clear of sugary drinks and alcohol, opting for water and occasionally a cold glass of milk. Howard has also learned to slow down and enjoy his food. “Before I would always rush through my meals,” he said. “Now I eat slowly. I don’t want to be the first to finish.” Howard’s weight loss has changed nearly every aspect of his life. His
health is better – no more A-fib, and he’s off all medications. He threw away all of his size 4X shirts and 60-inchwaist pants in exchange for shirts and pants in much smaller sizes. As his energy increased, so did his activity and motivation. Now, rather than leaving work exhausted and plopping into a chair when he gets home, he cleans the house or push mows the yard. “I didn’t realize how the weight was taking away my motivation,” he said. He often goes bike riding and is enjoying backpacking again. He’s quick to point out that although he enjoys being active, exercise is not the key to losing and maintaining weight. “It is about the diet,” he said. “About 80% of weight loss comes from how you eat.” Howard relishes his new lifestyle and said he’s never going back. If he notices his weight creeping up, he gets right back on track and takes off those few pounds before they start adding up.
STAVING OFF DEMENTIA
While research hasn’t led to ways to prevent dementia, it has identified steps to delay its onset and slow its progression, Pollard said.
working in the couple’s huge backyard. Not only was she able to get much-needed exercise while enjoying the outdoors, but her efforts also resulted in a more beautiful outdoor home environment. Plus, since her two dogs have free run of the yard, she was able to enjoy more time with them. With the gyms closed during the early months of the pandemic, Andreescu wasn’t able to do her regular exercise workouts. As an alternative, she converted an extra bedroom into a yoga studio and began taking yoga classes via Zoom. With the pandemic finally in the rearview mirror, Andreescu is keeping the habits she established a few years ago. “I’m doing yoga on a weekly basis, taking some classes on Zoom and some in person,” she said. “My weight loss has helped put me in a normal range for BMI and I feel much more in shape and healthier. I’m still working on losing an additional 10 pounds. Hopefully, it continues in the right direction.”
continued from p. 11
In its report, Harvard Medical School offers five suggestions to care for the brain: Manage stress Get enough sleep Don’t smoke Drink alcohol only in moderation Guard against head trauma Scientists and doctors also recommend exercise – physical and mental – as a way of optimizing mental fitness.
“You should resolve to use your memory and your thinking,” Greenberg said. “It’s better not to rely on paper or digital reminders all of the time. You want to make your brain work.” She recommended that people “take on new tasks and do things differently,” such as signing up for classes or taking on a new hobby or learning to dance. “You want to stay engaged in life and you want to keep socializing.”
want to know more? For more information about cognitive health: National Institute on Aging Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias Education and Referral Center 800-438-4380 www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers McKnight Brain Research Foundation 407-237-4485 https://mcknightbrain.org/ Alzheimer’s Association 800-272-3900 www.alz.org Alzheimer’s Foundation of America 866-232-8484 www.alzfdn.org
continued from p. 7
One of the most difficult parts of the pandemic for most people was being separated from family. Such was the case for Patti Dmuchowski of Oak Ridge. “I have three kids and two of them live out of state, so I was not able to visit with them and the grandkids,” she said. “We made a concerted effort to use technology like FaceTime, email and texts to stay in contact. I actually think we communicated more than we were doing before. “I think there was more of an effort to connect with family, in that we really did not know when the COVID restrictions would end. Interacting with my school-age
grandkids became more important because I was concerned with the isolation they were experiencing due to limited school access and social interactions with their friends.
“I do believe we have a stronger family connection because of the changes we were forced to go through,” Dmuchowski said. Like so many other people, Rachel Baldwin started working remotely from her Stokesdale home in March 2020. “The transition was challenging in the beginning, but I really started to appreciate the flexibility that my new arrangement provided,” she said. “I found myself in a much better position to establish work/life balance and spend more time at home. “I also realized how much time I was spending commuting and getting ready each day to work in an office doing a job I no longer enjoyed. “During 2021 we were asked to begin coming back to the office intermittently, sometimes for a few weeks at a time. I tried it for a while but decided I didn’t care to go back to my old routine,” Baldwin said. “I really enjoyed the extra time at home with my family so much that I left my job after being with the same organization for 10 years.” An avid dog lover and “dog mom” to Wynn, a lovable golden retriever, Baldwin relished the time and attention she was able to give to her canine companion. She also wanted to foster rescues, which she couldn’t do if she returned to working full-time in an office. “I switched to a remote-only position with a new company that
was supportive of my foster aspirations,” Baldwin said. “A few months later my first foster dog came to live with us from Triad Golden Retriever Rescue. Over the past six months we’ve had five goldens that we have cared for short term until they have found their forever homes. This would not have been possible prior to COVID-19.” Baldwin said the changes she made resulted from realizing there was more to life than just a job. “I knew I had to start advocating for myself and focusing on the things that were most important to me,” she said. “Animals have always been a big part of my life and fostering these goldens has simply enriched my life beyond measure. I realized I could work and focus on family and fosters at the same time. It did not have to be one or the other.”
“Taking this leap of faith and changing direction was the best decision I could have made. Today I use the time I previously spent commuting in my car to make my dogs’ meals and play outside with them before and after work. “I also find that while being home with them, I tend to take more frequent breaks during the day to stretch my legs and step away from my desk to avoid burnout. It’s also pretty great having a golden laying their head in my lap while I’m working. Talk about stress relief!” Anyone who knows Barbara Engel knows the energetic and outgoing Oak Ridge resident is always on the
90s,” she said. “We were able to move them safely into a retirement community. Early on, we used Zoom to set up weekly visits with family and friends.” Because of her parents’ ages, she was very cautious of being around other people. She began doing things like shopping online for groceries and picking them up outside the store. Prior to the pandemic, she and her husband enjoyed eating out, going to movies and traveling, but those types of activities came to a halt. While spending more time at home, Dawson decided to work on her cooking skills and even look for ways to make meals more of a special event.
Photo courtesy of Barbara Engel
While dealing with COVID restrictions, Barbara Engel focused her attention on cultivating plants and developing new gardens. go and always connecting with people. At least, that was the case until the pandemic hit. Before the pandemic, Engel said every day of the week was full. “I stayed busy shopping and finding great things for my booth at Golden Antiques, playing mah-jongg several times a week, going to my book club, volunteering at school, serving as president of Oak Ridge Garden Club and as president of Greensboro Newcomers Club, volunteering on several town committees, serving as a board member on our HOA, just to name a few! There were always meetings, meetings and more meetings,” she said. One big positive that came from the pandemic was that she was forced to slow down and reevaluate how she was spending her time. “I found Union Grove Baptist Church, which was one of the only churches open during the pandemic in
Oak Ridge,” she said. “The pastor and church members were so welcoming, and I loved worshiping with them and letting spiritual happiness feed my soul during those scary times. “I also put all my energies into my gardening. I ordered lots of new perennials and made two shade garden beds. In one of them I created a dry creek bed, which I am very proud of. It gave me such satisfaction that I could do it on my own.” Engel said she also caught up on all of her “to do” projects and “cleaned out closets like everyone else.” In addition, she learned how to Zoom and was able to stay in touch with family and friends. “The time in quarantine brought to light what is truly important in my life,” said Kim Dawson of Oak Ridge. “I really focused on family and caring for my parents who are in their
“I learned to make my own pizza dough and started doing a lot more baking,” she said. “We started eating nice dinners in our dining room with music playing and no technology.” She said she also started a small garden and grew tomatoes, lettuce, peppers and other vegetables. Dawson said most of the changes brought about by the pandemic have become a permanent part of her life. “I still order a lot of items online, and groceries that I can just pick up,” she said. “We do more outside activities. We will continue to eat in our dining room, which just sat unused before.” To add a little variety to her meals and give her and her husband the illusion of traveling around, Dawson joked that now they eat in the dining room, the kitchen and on the porch.
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