Julie Muhlstein and her dog, Oscar, out for a walk last week at the Everett waterfront. (Contributed photo)

Julie Muhlstein and her dog, Oscar, out for a walk last week at the Everett waterfront. (Contributed photo)

If the pandemic profoundly changed your life, tell us how

With the COVID-19 toll still rising, the day-to-day world of last January seems a distant memory.

Last January, Elvis tribute artist Robbie Dee — really Rob Schwertley, but transformed by a wig and sparkly blue jumpsuit — made my day by launching into “Suspicious Minds” at his Everett home.

A few nights later in Snohomish, Gold Star parents Brian and Shellie Starr shared pride, heartbreak and cherished memories of their son. Marine Cpl. Jeffrey Starr was killed in Iraq in 2005.

It had snowed the night Everett’s Jerry Garner, president of the Northwest Packer Backers, opened his door last January, wearing a green and cheese-gold jersey. He showed off one share of stock in Green Bay Packers Inc., his framed photo of Lambeau Field and other super-fan collectibles.

That was the work world I knew — before COVID-19. What I’ve loved most about my job is meeting people, often in their homes, and learning about their lives. I still have the job, minus one furlough day per week, but it’s oh so different. The office? It’s a desk in my dining room. Interviews are mostly done by phone. I’m starved for co-worker banter, which loses a lot when delivered by email.

Tell us, how has your life changed?

Have you switched careers? Been laid low by grief related to a loss from the virus? Moved out of the city? Decided to permanently home-school your kids? Brought an elderly parent into your household? Stepped up your fitness game? Started to cook? Or surprised yourself by learning to connect with family and friends online?

I hope to write a series of columns about profound changes in people’s circumstances or goals since the coronavirus upended life for everyone. It was nearly a year ago, on Jan. 20, that the first U.S. patient diagnosed with COVID-19 was admitted to Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.

What has this past year, so unexpected, meant for you and your family?

The negatives are many, including job losses and business closures, canceled travel plans or milestone events, and feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression. Have there been positives, too? Are there ways the pandemic shutdown brought your family together, or caused you to become more creative?

If my dog Oscar is representative of other domestic critters, pets are happier and more spoiled than ever with their owners home so much. My daughter’s family adopted two kittens. Neighborhood walks, always my daily habit, have become sanity savers as destinations from libraries and museums to restaurants, music venues and movie theaters remain shuttered.

Writing this on the birthday of one of my grandsons, I’m thinking about what I’ve missed most — and that is being there in person. Whether to interview a column subject, attend a church service, cheer on a grandchild at a Little League game, or gather with family for a holiday meal, I cannot wait to be together with people again.

As of Wednesday, 359,607 people had died of the virus in the United States. In Washington, COVID-19 has killed 3,541 people, and 417 of them were our neighbors in Snohomish County.

I will wait my turn for the vaccine. While waiting, I hope to share your pandemic stories with Herald readers.

Julie Muhlstein: jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com

Tell us: Has virus changed your life?

If you’d like to share major ways the pandemic changed your life, send an email to jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com or leave a message at 425-387-5195.

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