Pandemic Journal: Dear Mom – A Ray of Hope

Coronavirus, Symbol, Corona, Virus, Pandemic, Epidemic

Well, Mom, it’s been 14 long-years-ago today, and I don’t even know where to begin. It’s not that I haven’t written, because I have, faithfully, every year. It’s just that the most unbelievable things have happened in this past year. You’re not going to believe this.

Actually, it’s like the earth is trying to shake us humans off, like a big, wet, shaggy dog.

First, Australia was being consumed by wildfires – before, during and after I visited. I’m sure you don’t know which thing is the more shocking – the fires or me in Australia, at all, but especially DURING the fires. Yea, I didn’t tell you about that!

While cruising around Australia and New Zealand, we heard about what we thought was a new strain of flu taking hold in China. We didn’t think much about it. It was winter, flu happens.

Then, 2020 arrived. Hold my beer. Or, in your case, some reheated black coffee. I still don’t know how you drank that stuff.

These past couple months have been incredibly bizarre. Surreal. I keep having to pinch myself – but this is real, very real. As far as I’m concerned, 2020 has already worn out its welcome and just needs to STOP! Like now. We can write this one off in the history books and move on, except, we can’t.

And by “you won’t believe this,” I mean, really, seriously, you won’t.

Umm, Things Have Changed

You’ll think I’m writing a script for a bad novel, but I’m not. Actually, there is something novel going on, but it’s a novel virus and trust me, that’s the villain.

In less than two short months that seem like an eternity, our lives have been dumped upside down and disconnected from life before. I don’t mean like when Dad died, or even when you passed over – I’m speaking of a phenomenon much larger. We are being strangled by a global pandemic. I mean “we” in a much larger sense. In fact, the largest “we” possible – the entire world. This novel virus named Covid-19 is running ripshod across every continent on earth, like a murderous sniper raging out of control.

Pretty much all we can do is wash our hands, stay apart and/or wear face masks. We feel like vulnerable sitting ducks. Because we are.

Covid-19, Coronavirus, Pandemic, Infection, Disease

Up until these past few weeks, we though that research and medicine had conquered scourges like this. That we were safe, and that nothing like this could happen here and now in the modern era. We have science and immunizations on our side, making us invincible to something on this scale. We were sorely mistaken, living under a dangerous illusion.

Not only have we never seen anything like this, neither did you. You were born after the 1918 flu pandemic which was caused by a virus related to the one sweeping the world now. Beginning in early 1918 and over the next three full years, the H1N1 virus, the source of what was known as the Spanish Flu, killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide and 675,000 Americans.

In two months, WITH at least some preventative measures in place, so far this virus has killed 218,000 worldwide with 60,000 deaths confirmed in the US alone, more than anyplace else in the world – although that number is likely vastly under-reported for a variety of reasons. The reality is probably at least double that number, if not more.

Nurse, Healthcare, Mask, Pandemic, Covid-19

Now the worst part. There is no vaccine, nor cure. All we can do is treat the horrific symptoms. People, including medical staff and care givers are dropping like flies as most of us shelter-in-place at home, trying to avoid infection.

Shelter-in-place is a term often used when ordering a lockdown as a result of an active shooter, terms you, thankfully, weren’t familiar with. This is a new kind of threat and we can’t see it, making some people think and act like it isn’t real. But it is.

I never thought about the economic effects of the Spanish flu pandemic that lasted three years, or how it might have been connected to the 1929 Great Depression. Perhaps the flu wasn’t causative, but the world had emerged from three years of pandemic-hell, following on the heels of WWI, less than a decade before the Depression began.

empty restaurant

Today, we’re experiencing a combination of the two. We’ve shut down large swaths of the economy in something resembling an economic medically-induced coma in order that people can shelter at home, work from home when possible, protecting themselves from being infected so they don’t infect others.

One of the first things to be cancelled were sporting events. No March Madness in Indiana this year. Yes, I know, you’ve rotated in your grave few times. Sports figures were some of the first to be infected and tested. There were no early tests, and even yet, tests are very restricted. Many people have or had Covid and are never diagnosed, so their illnesses and deaths are not included in the Covid statistics.

This stealthy disease is worse, far worse, than earlier virus strains because it’s highly contagious and very lethal to many. It’s particularly dangerous though, because some people, super-spreaders, become infected, don’t show any or only mild symptoms but still infect others for many days, up to two full weeks. Those who do become ill can spread the virus unknowingly, even before they are symptomatic. This equates to a lose-lose situation. We’ve been hoping a vaccine would be developed quickly, as that seems to be our only way “out.” Quickly in vaccine terms means months, perhaps more than a year, not weeks.

Now we’re receiving reports that people may be able to become reinfected, meaning that immunity is not conferred. Vaccines are based upon immunity. This isn’t good news at all.

We’re still learning about this invisible terrorist. There’s no roadmap and it seems that every day there a new piece of devastating news. Some days, I just feel like I’ve been pecked to death by a herd of angry chickens.

I’m working on a quilt that I’m naming “Black and Blue,” because between this virus and the associated politics, which is a potato far too hot to touch, I feel battered and bruised. Quilting is my sanity right now.

We’re doing our best at “social distancing,” staying home, remaining apart and wearing masks when we do need to go out in public. It’s particularly difficult not to see family. A few days ago, the grandkids came over and we practiced responsible social distancing by walking around the yard, together, apart, separated by at least 6 feet. It’s easier when you make it fun and it’s important to set a good example.

No school, no church, no dinners out, no haircuts, no quilting, nothing social with other humans – not even visiting other people’s houses. After a couple of months, most people are going a bit stir crazy.

Thankfully it’s getting warmer so we can go outside. The snow has melted and the early spring flowers are finally blooming. This is the worst case of cabin fever, ever – but it beats the alternative. Unfortunately, not everyone is complying.

I know you probably don’t understand why this is so difficult, because when you were growing up, your family only owned one car, when you had a car at all. Everyone stayed home most of the time.

You didn’t have a phone, TV didn’t yet exist and there wasn’t even a restaurant in town. Only a few people had electricity. Even as an adult, you never owned a computer, or had email, and you wouldn’t use your cell phone. Now, because we can’t see each other, we’re entirely dependent on those forms of communications.

You probably wonder what our problem is and why we don’t just read a book. Of course, your family was a lot more self-sufficient than we are today. For starters, we don’t grow our own food, have cows to milk or chickens to lay eggs.

Our grocery stores, something you never had either as a child, now sport tape on the floors to keep shoppers 6 feet apart as they wait to enter. Only a certain number of people are allowed inside at a time to minimize contact.

Some groceries can be delivered and we can literally order anything online, even cars.

Doctor visits happen over our computer now using a two-way movie camera built into the system. We carry on all kinds of business, banking and have meetings and conferences where groups of people can see each other on their computer screens which also function as two-way televisions. Now that’s actually kind of funny, because all sorts of unexpected challenges have cropped up.

Jammies are now “office attire.” Yes, I know, you’re gasping. Sometimes we have to put on “business casual” tops, but some people forget that they are not wearing proper attire below the waist.

reporter no pants

Just yesterday, this poor reporter in a suit coat above the waist was sporting the “no pants” look. Based on the background, you know he had strategically placed his chair where he looked the best in his home. He’s now famous, infamous and unforgettable. On his next job interview, they will chuckle and say, “Oh yea, you’re the guy without pants.”

Not only is he VERY relatable to the rest of us, because we share that very fear, he’ll also never live this down. Hopefully it will just be a fond memory soon, shared over a beer in the pub with his buddies.

I’ve transitioned to the “office live” realm too by creating a Facebook LIVE presentation for MyHeritage, a genealogy company. Yes, genealogy combined with genetics is still my consuming passion. You didn’t think that would ever change, did you?

I know you don’t know what Facebook is – but think of it like an online journal where many people say too much and some people don’t say enough.

Imagine writing letters and posting the letter on the fence outside your house for all to see. The viewers are all of your worldwide Facebook friends, or at least the ones that Facebook decides should see your “posting.” Yea, it was weird for me at first too, but in these pandemic times, Facebook is a source of connection to people outside of our general geographic realm, and those within it too. I can see what the grandkids are doing. We can share whenever we feel like it, and almost always, someone is listening. I talk about plants, quilts, cats and genealogy – none of which would surprise you. You’d be talking about Avon, crocheting and posting cat pictures.

Here’s a shocker. I’ve even been cleaning. My least favorite thing on earth to do, but you already knew that. Hey, look what I found.

I’m sure you remember when I used to hang this on the bedroom doorknob of whichever child needed a nudge to clean up their room. I’ll be gifting it to one of those children for their kids’ doorknobs. Karma!

The thing that took the longest for the Facebook LIVE presentation was the technology prep (computers, don’t ask) and cleaning my office. Spring cleaning has taken on an entirely new aspect. Houses have never been cleaner because many people are bored out of their minds. I’m creating boxes and bags of donations for places like Salvation Army as soon as they are open again. The need will be great.

For my presentation, I dressed up – well pandemic dress-up – meaning not PJs or a tshirt. I selected a nice top, donned my favorite funky socks for confidence and wore jeans instead of sweatpants. Nothing has to match now.

I want you to notice that my desk is clean, as in entirely clear. That will never happen again in my lifetime, I’m sure. Might be one of the 7 signs of the Apocolypse.

Jim cameo

However, I forgot to shut my office door behind me, and Jim made a cameo appearance, twice. Thankfully, he WAS fully attired, being a veteran of working at home. Ahhh, the challenges of home office and a rapidly changing environment. Most people have carved out a “studio” someplace to work, even if it’s the kitchen table. Seeing other people doing the same things we are makes us all feel better and more connected to our friends and colleagues.

One of my friends kindly brought her husband a snack while he was on a video conference, forgetting that she was sporting a very comfy t-shirt and pink “granny panties.” Utterly mortified and terribly embarrassed, she claims she’s never going to a Christmas party again. We told her that the other video-meeting attendees were probably envious, on two counts. I’m guessing they’ll be gifting her with day-of-the-week panties for Christmas, because right now, none of us can keep track of which day is which because they all run together. Except that day. She’ll never forget that day.

A New Way of Life

Schools and universities are closed and education is taking place online too – not just for some, but pretty much for everyone. Parents have suddenly become teachers on top of trying to work at home. That’s interesting, to say the least. Forgive me for saying that I’m so grateful my children are the lovely adults that they’ve become.

online learning

We’re learning a whole new way of living – not because we want to – but because we have to.

Case in point, funerals. Funeral homes and morgues can only store so many bodies, so something has to happen – especially not knowing how soon “normal” funerals will be able to resume.

A few days ago, because of the restrictions on gatherings and crowds, we attended a “zoom funeral.” Zoom is video conferencing software that allows groups of people to see each other on their computer or phone. Since you left us, cell phones have become mini-computers that we carry around at all times. We have separation anxiety if they aren’t on our bodies or near us. There are even cell-phone watches now. Queue Max Smart and Agent 99.

A virtual funeral, attended remotely, is not quite the same as being there, but it’s certainly better than nothing at all. It’s just, so, well, different.

Very few people in the immediate family were in the church due to social distancing requirements – less than 10 – sitting in individual pews far apart. The Priest spoke from the pulpit, standing above the casket, delivering the eulogy. The sermon was “zoomed,” live to whoever wanted to “attend.” Churches and genealogy societies are meeting this way too.

Families are using Zoom to gather remotely for meals. We zoomed as we ate your version of creamed eggs on toast on Easter Sunday – our family tradition. You remember that, I’m sure.

Fear

While zoom and other enabling technologies are a good thing and allow some connection to each other and normalcy, people are very frightened. Our health is in danger, the food supply is in danger and the economy is in danger. Jobs have been lost and families wait hours in line in their cars for food banks to open. At the same time, items at groceries are often sold out, yet farmers who can’t get their products to market are dumping milk and plowing under their crops. The connection is broken.

One piece of good news is that gasoline has now dropped below $1 a gallon, a price not seen in decades or if ever, adjusted for inflation, but we really can’t go anyplace so it matters little. Of course, the flip side is that the oil industry is not doing well.

We have all tried our best to remain optimistic, repeating that we are all in this together, we’ll make it, and it will be over soon.

Stay Home, Stay, Coronavirus, Corona, Covid-19

Truthfully, none of those things may be entirely true, yet we try to remain upbeat, supporting each other and encouraging others to do the same. Many people will make it to the other side, survivors, although not undamaged, but with lives and a world to rebuild.

Pause

Here’s the thing Mom. We thought this was a pause. That’s how it’s been perceived, a pause in our collective lives to save lives. Altruistic. Feels good, helping others by helping ourselves. Unemployment exists for people who lost jobs. They’ll be called back to work in a month or so – right?

A pause in our economy to “flatten the curve” of infection so that hospitals and medical personnel have a fighting chance of treating the tsunami of gravely ill people who are becoming ill so quickly that the hospitals have run out of beds, medical equipment and supplies. It’s so bad that no visitors are allowed. Not only is there no space, it’s not safe. Entire hospitals are full of Covid patients, many of whom die alone, without their families. Heartbreaking is an understatement. This is a war.

Quilters and sewers have been making face masks for weeks because there is an extreme shortage. I’ve made hundreds, for nurses and doctors, transit workers, first responders, police and fire, delivery people, neighbors, the elderly, nursing homes, essential workers, friends and family. I’ve lost track, and mine are not even a drop in the bucket. I never want to see another mask again as long as I live, but they may be a critical part of our lives for a long time to come.

For the first time ever, you can wear a mask into a gas station without the attendant thinking they are being robbed. We live in strange times.

If you were here, you’d be making masks, sitting right beside me, companions, just like we used to work on projects. You’d be old enough by now that you’d likely be living with me, so that would be comforting, all by itself. I surely do miss you Mom. I wish I could talk to you, in person. I ache to hear your voice again. I wish I had a recording.

No photo description available.

You’ll never guess what I found digging for fabrics for masks. The oldest fabric I own is what’s left from when you and I re-covered that comforter back when I was a teenager. That’s the same comforter that you re-covered with your Mom when you were a teenager. I remember purchasing this fabric together at the fabric store, from the sale bolts. Everything we ever bought was from the sale bolts or the remnant bin:)

I’m going to use this fabric now, Mom, to make a scrap quilt I’ll enjoy. No point in saving it any longer. The future is uncertain. So is the present. I’ve never felt this way before. Use the fabric. Wear your dress cowboy boots and funky socks around the house. Just do it. No regrets.

Reset

This wily virus isn’t finished. Far from it. This interlude wasn’t just a pause.

Portions of the country are “opening up” again, and many are frightened that this is happening too soon – much too soon. We’re all connected together in this – the whole world metaphorically holding hands. Of course, no one is supposed to be literally touching right now. Still, we can’t avoid human contact entirely and the virus depends on that.

World, Globe, Worldwide, Www, Global, Planet, Sphere

Covid-19 is the great equalizer. Rich, poor, every nation, opposing political parties, old, young, all races, already sick or healthy – the virus attacks everyone randomly and indiscriminately. Many have died and are yet to die.

By now, everyone knows someone who has or has had the disease, and almost everyone knows someone who has died. I know several.

Every day, the virus’s tentacles reach closer and closer to home. It’s 4 houses away from one of our closest family members as I type this, and two of our family members think they’ve been infected and recovered already, but went undiagnosed.

If “those other” people get infected, they infect others, who infect others, who eventually infect everyone. This is why we need to stay home and only emerge very cautiously, under controlled circumstances. Until we have a vaccine, which is months away, best case, or perhaps years away, there is no “resume life” button.

We thought that when the restrictions were lifted, our life would return to something approaching normal. Everyone would have had a month or 6 weeks timeout, an enforced stay-cation, but the danger would have abated. Shops and restaurants would open and everyone would resume doing what they were doing before. We’d get much-needed haircuts and meet for coffee.

We’d have a big after-Covid party celebration with margaritas and Mexican food – in a restaurant!

Maybe not so fast.

We thought this was a sprint, but we’re beginning to realize it’s a long-distance marathon, an endurance race.

Over the past couple of weeks, especially this last week as we all anxiously watch the process of early states relaxing the restrictions, we’ve listened to infectious disease specialists and scientists who tell us that indeed, the virus is still coming for us.

Perhaps it will nab us now, especially if some states open too soon and reinfect everyone. We won’t know for 2 or 3 weeks how rapidly the infection rate will increase. With Covid-19, delay is deadly, because we can only measure the results of what we do now by what happens 2-3 weeks in the future.

Perhaps the virus will re-emerge from “hot spots” in states that never did and still haven’t ordered social distancing. Perhaps it will rear its ugly head this fall when the weather cools, schools reopen and people spend more time inside. Probably all of the above.

We aren’t going to be safe for months, if ever. This transformation from temporary pause to chronically fearful isn’t what we expected a month or 6 weeks ago. Now it’s beginning to seem inevitable. I’m still trying to find the right balance of optimism, confidence, paranoia and panic.

It’s not so much that I’m concerned about contracting the virus myself. I actually think I’ve already been exposed at least once, although I’d surely like to know. It’s the havoc the virus is wreaking on everyone and everything, everyplace – family members, friends, neighbors, economy – literally life as we know it is under seige.

We control very little in this equation, because our safety and future is at least partially dependant on people we don’t even know in places we don’t live, and who may or may not comply with safety measures.

This isn’t a pause, it’s a reset, a full control-alt-delete hard reboot with no warning. The screen’s gone dark as we sit staring blankly at where our former lives used to be. The old normal is gone. When it arrives, we don’t know what the new normal will look like, how our lives will be different in the future, and we’re not at all sure what’s going to be left.

This slowly creeping realization of our new reality is sinking into our bones like a cold, damp, fog, little by little, chilling us to our core.

Pandemic Journal

When I started the Pandemic Journal series, I thought that in a few short weeks, after some memorable adventures and perhaps a few laughable mis-adventures, I would scribe, “The End,” close the book with a smile and retire my pandemic pen after documenting this unique hiccup of history for the future.

We would have been inconvenienced a bit, but the relatively happy ending would occur sooner than later with the world having escaped the worst of the scourge of the virus by staying at home. The virus and associated inconveniences would depart as rapidly as they had descended upon our lives. This epic pause would be just another interesting chapter in a our collective human life journey. The Covid chapter would be done, finished – on to the next, none the worse for wear.

Now, I’m not so sure about any of those things.

Not sure at all.

Hope

And then, last night it came.

Finally.

A ray of hope. A tiny pinpoint of light in this darkness.

The antiviral drug, Remdesivir, in a very limited blind study was shown to shorten the length of hospital stay for Covid patients from 15 to 11 days.

Those are clearly the sickest people, and Remdesivir does nothing to prevent infection. We also don’t know if fewer people actually died. The drug must be administered via IV, over a period of days, but it reduced the recovery time by 31% in this small sample. The good news is that it’s not a new drug, so it doesn’t have to go through the approval process for the drug itself. Remdesivir is expected to be authorized for emergency use on Covid patients in a few days.

Having said that, there’s so much we don’t know, and Remdesivir might not be any part of the answer when we learn more. This discovery might be the chink in the virus’s armour though, the first step in the path to finding life-saving treatments to defeat this horrid enemy. We now know it’s possible to fight this virus, and how.

Remdisivir is clearly not a panacea, but here’s what it is.

It’s a spark of hope, that seedling in our time of despair. Perhaps the bloom of springtime after the bleakest of winters.

Hope springs eternal.

Flowers for you, Mom.

 

Pandemic Journal: Things I Never Thought I’d Do, But Here I Am

What week is this?

What day is this?

What day of the week is it?

What time is it?

Yes, we’ve all lost track of these kinds of things now because our days blend one into the next with no delineators like going to work on weekdays and doing other activities on weekends. Even if you don’t work in a different location, most of us have some sort of routine that has been disrupted by social isolating.

I hope you ARE isolating, because the sooner everyone actually does this, the sooner this pandemic will be over, the fewer people will die, and we can all resume our pre-Covid lives again.

I must say, these once-in-a-lifetime measures have wrought some quite unexpected challenges and in some cases, despite the circumstances, we just have to laugh.

A group of us crazy genealogists cooked up something quite unique and fun, so read on😊

But first, let’s get the deadly serious stuff out of the way. Trying to find a silver lining by no means suggests that the situation we find ourselves in isn’t the most serious threat to our lives in this generation, and probably in the past century.

First is Not Good

My Mom used to say that being first wasn’t always a good thing. I always had images of the road runner tricking the coyote into running off the edge of the cliff. We’ve sort of done just that.

On the website Worldometers, cases of Covid-19 are tracked, and a few days ago, the US became #1 in the world. You can see the breakdown here by country worldwide and by state here.

On March 26th, the US outpaced all of the other countries in the world with a record number of Covid-19 cases, and that’s just the confirmed positives. We haven’t tested nearly the number of people, or the percentage of the population that either China or Italy have.

Pandemic us first

The deaths are still somewhat comparatively low, thankfully, but we are no where near the peak while China and Italy are beyond that point. The numbers won’t be apples and apples until after we are beyond the peak as a country too.  Let’s hope they stay low, but I’m not optimistic.

I never, ever wanted the US to be #1 in quite this way. Like everyone else, I’m deeply concerned and anxiety is running at an all-time high for many people.

It’s important, after we take care of life-sustaining tasks to find something to take the edge off – preferably other than eating or drinking or we’ll emerge pickled and unable to get through the door when this is all over.

Have you done something quite unusual since this isolating began, other than inventorying your pantry and planning “blizzard meals” out of whatever ingredients you find?

Here are four things I never thought I’d do.

Signing My Will in a Drive Through

My husband and I had been working on creating wills and trusts since last fall. It’s a challenge with a blended family and we are trying to do our best to provide for each other as well as fairly to descendants.

We had intended to get this sewn up and signed before we left for down under at Christmas time, but our attorney was traveling. Then we were traveling. Upon our return, we were having back and forth discussions when the virus hit, quickly followed by social distancing and shutdowns. It became apparent that this situation was worse than anticipated and that we might need those documents sooner than later.

We are in the high-risk category, and here we sat with no wills or trusts. This meant that we would have no control over what happens to each other or how our assets would be distributed to our heirs. That’s clearly not what we want, which is why we were working on those documents in the first place.

Plus, you know how Murphy works – that’s like an invitation for disaster. Our best insurance of staying alive? Get those documents signed, somehow.

But how on earth could we get our wills and trust documents signed and notarized with two witnesses? That’s 5 people, one with a specialized skill, the notary, all of whom need to be in the same place at the same time when we are all supposed to be social distancing? Our attorney is in an office building that is closed, so that won’t work. Finding an online notary, although they do exist, was unsuccessful.

None of my friends are notaries and neither are the grocery stores which are open. I messaged a well-connected friend. He found a local bank branch that is notarizing documents through the drive-through window and they agreed to notarize our wills, so long as they did not have to attest that we were of sound mind, cause we obviously are not.😊

Pandemic will

Having not been out of the house in a couple of weeks, the drive to the bank was lovely although we stopped no place and talked to no one. Here we are in the drive though, signing as they watch, passing documents back and forth to the notary and witnesses, one by one, for half an hour, complete with hand sanitizer and wipes.

I know this is a somber time, and signing one’s will isn’t exactly joyful either – but the other-worldly irony of a couple signing wills and related documents in a bank drive-through during a pandemic stuck us as quite humorous. It struck the bank employees the same way, and dare I say, we had fun. They probably had a fun story to tell their family and we do too.

Of course, the (sealed) bag of chocolate we took them as a thank you for going way above and beyond didn’t hurt anything.

Pandemic picnic

Afterwards, to celebrate, we pulled into the parking lot behind the bank branch and enjoyed a picnic in the sunshine in our car.

We are livin’ large, I’m telling you!

The next day, when the US became #1 in the world in terms of positive Covid-19 cases, we were greatly relieved to have this task behind us, just in case.

Now we can focus on living, and keeping everyone else living too.

Making Face Masks

Over the years, we’ve done some really unusual things as a family, but making face masks is something I never even pondered.

Of course, the biggest problem is that the only family we can see right now is the other person who lives here, and the cats.

Normally, if I were making masks or other charity items, it would be with my quilt sisters, but you can’t really socially isolate and sew at the same table. Plus, there’s no reason to take a chance.

My husband has done something HE never thought he’s be doing either – ironing the ties for face masks. Before that, he was so bored he was cleaning…so ironing was actually a welcome break, well, up until the iron broke and drained water all over the ironing board and floor.

He magnanimously volunteered to go to the store for groceries AND a new iron. He’s rather shop then either clean or iron, so that worked out well.

There are several steps to making these masks that appear to be quite simple and shouldn’t take much time at all. The masks are deceptive taking roughly an hour each when you combine all the steps. I sure hope these get washed and reused, but regardless, they are saving lives and that’s all that matters.

Let me share with you the construction crew.

Pandemic mask front

First, you have to cut the mask face panel and sew the two sides together, supervised by Kitters, of course.

Pandemic chai

Mom, I think you forgot this pile over here. I’ll hold these others down for you.

Pandemic chai sleeping

This work is EXHAUSTING. Time for a nap.

Pandemic Kitters sewing

Chai needed to call in the reserves. Kitters, can you take over supervising mother, please?

Pandemic Chai pressing

Next, the masks must be pressed, either by an iron or in a pinch, a cat taking a bath sitting on the pile will do.

Pandemic kitters pillow

A pile of masks on the ironing board also makes a wonderful pillow.

Pandemic ties

Next, the ties are cut and stacked on the ironing board for pressing.

Pandemic ties kitters

The ties must be held down or they will jump off of the ironing board. Of course, the ties might be assisted in jumping off the ironing board by one of the other cats batting the ends of the ties, just saying’.

Pandemic masks

It’s amazing with all this “help” that I’ve gotten any masks at all finished. These 7 and more are being contributed to workers at the hospital where my daughter, her husband and another family member go to work every day regardless of the personal risk involved. The very least I can do is to try to keep them as safe as possible.

Later in the day, I got a very bad case of cabin fever though.

Garden Intrigue

I’ve stayed inside this house as long as I can, nearly a month with only two outings. Going to the grocery never looked so good.

It’s still cold in the north where I live, so being outside in the yard isn’t terribly attractive either.

For my mental health, and in the interest of marital harmony, I really need to go outside at least once a day, even if it is just walking around my yard looking for any hint of green. Yes, I’m literally watching the plants grow – an indication that spring, color and warmth will be here soon. I can’t wait until it’s warm enough to open the windows.

Come along, take a walk with me. There are hints of green now that the snow from a few days ago has melted. Maybe a few other goodies have surfaced too.

Pandemic plants

Look here…I think this might have just grown an eighth of an inch in the past hour or so. Maybe if I just walk around the house once more, new growth will appear. What do you think? Let’s take a lap and see what else we can find.

Pandemic 72

Wait!! What’s this? OMG! Why, I think this might be important. A hint perhaps? A “green leaf” of sorts – kind of like a chocolate trail, maybe. This is intense alright. What is this and where does this lead?

Hmmm, let’s keep walking.

Pandemic toblerone

Wow, this plant is trying to bloom. The very first one, and look what’s tucked in right alongside – Toblerone. Someone obviously didn’t want me to miss this. We must be in Switzerland now – the Swiss Alps perhaps?

Wow, this is a great journey!

Pandemic carmel

Indeed, some creature must be trying to tell me something or lure me someplace with chocolate? That’s not very difficult, actually. I already very nearly met my Maker once already thanks to chocolate.

Next, we find Ghirardelli milk chocolate staking out a beautiful green plant, waking up and yawning. This looks just succulent to me.

Pandemic Iceland

On to the northlands we find chocolate in Iceland as well. Mmm, volcanic and rich – my favorite.

Pandemic sea salt

Where to next? Crossing the sea, of course, with sea salt carmel. Yum…

How far will we sail until we hit land again?

Pandemic Kia Ora

Oh, oh, now we’ve gone “down under.” Indeed, Kia Ora to my New Zealand peeps.

Pandemic Godiva

Now we’re obviously in the mountains someplace. Hidden in the crags is a truffle, probably discovered by one of those truffle-loving pigs. Good thing it wasn’t a chocolate-loving pig. I’d be wrestling with that pig for sure.

Pandemic Hokey Pokey

What’s this? My eagle has brought me something magical called dark chocolate “Hokey-Pokey.” Makes me feel like dancing, “Put your left foot in, put your left foot out…“

It too came from “down under” as you can see in the background. I’ll take this magic any day!

Pandemic english

Dark chocolate in English Ivy. We must be in the British Isles now. Wow. This is some amazing chocolate trail!

Pandemic rabbit hole

Uh oh! Oh no. You know what that is don’t you?

The dreaded rabbit hole.

Should I?

Or shouldn’t I?

I’m a genealogist, I should know better than to go down a rabbit hole. Right?

But…but…there might be another clue down there…..or chocolate.

Where does it go?

What should I do?

What would you do?

Ok, let’s see what’s down that hole.

Pandemic basket

Hey look, we found the rabbit along with a lovely basket of goodies. Sometimes it pays to go down those rabbit holes.

Maybe watching the plants grow isn’t such a bad idea after all, and it just might be entertaining. Plus, there’s chocolate and “that’s what it’s all about.”

Speaking of entertaining, there’s one more thing I never thought I’d be doing, but here I am. “Performing,” in a variety type of entertainment show.

Saturday Night Virtual Entertainment Show

This last Saturday night, a group of obviously incredibly bored genealogists joined forces for 2 hours – virtually – to entertain each other and the members of the VGA who were available to tune in last minute.

Courtesy of Thomas MacEntee and coordinated by Katherine Wilson of the Virtual Genealogy Association (which you might be interested in joining), our “Virtual Entertainment Show” was performed live from around the world.

Indeed, this is what happens when genealogists are placed into isolation. We might be physically distant, but we’re not exactly isolated.

We’re not star-studded in the traditional sense, but everyone showed something we enjoy, generally not something genealogy related although some were, because genealogy weaves itself into the very fiber of our lives.

Several people showed skills and hobbies from the rest of their lives. You didn’t know genealogists had any “rest of their life” did you😊. Me either, but getting to know people better was one of the benefits of this show.

Dreamed up only a day in advance, this pop-up event was quite literally a variety show. There was origami from Germany, traditional Irish storytelling from Ireland, of course (where else), sign language, piano from England, the most amazing textile art created from discarded constitutional law books, amazing papercrafts, art jewelry in a number of formats, including turning old watches into small photo frames sporting family pictures that you can wear, wire molding, quilting, instrumental music, singing, comedy, dollhouse miniature making, rowing instruction and more, much more.

Each “performer” had 5 minutes and the participants thoroughly enjoyed themselves. I hope the attendees did too.

Pandemic origami

Here’s Marcel from Germany instructing us how to make an origami frog.

For my part, I showed a few quilts and useful quilted items like my quilted vest, purse and laptop sleeve. I had a great deal of help as I prepared the “studio” in advance. In fact, several of the performers had assistance, which made the event even that much more enjoyable.

Pandemic quilts

Thanks to Katherine, the VGA, Thomas and the rest of my genealogy peeps for pitching in to do something none of us ever imagined we’d be doing and providing a couple hours of blessed distraction.

Pandemic Journal

That does it for this edition of the Pandemic Journal. What have you done recently that you never thought you’d ever do?

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

  • Celebrate DNA – customized DNA themed t-shirts, bags and other items

Fun Genealogy Activities for Trying Times

My mother used to say that patience is a virtue.

patience stones.jpg

I’m afraid I’m not naturally a very virtuous person, at least not where patience is concerned. I don’t seem to take after my ancestor, Patience Brewster (1600-1634.) Perhaps those “patience” genes didn’t make it to my generation. Or maybe Patience wasn’t very patient herself.

Not only does patience not come naturally to me, it’s more difficult for everyone during stressful times. People are anxious, nerves are frazzled and tempers are short. Have you noticed that recently?

I guess you could say that what we’ve been enduring, in terms of both health issues and/or preparation for the Covid-19 virus along with the economic rollercoaster – not to mention the associated politics, is stress-inducing.

patience stress.png

Let’s see:

  • Worry about a slow-motion epidemic steamrollering the population as it wraps around the world – check.
  • Worry about family members – check.
  • Worry about TP, hand sanitizer, food, medication and other supplies – check.
  • Worry about jobs and income – check.
  • Worry about retirement accounts and medical bills – check.
  • Worry about long-term ramifications – check.

Nope, no stress here. What about you?

And yes, I’m intentionally understated, hoping to at least garner a smile.

Once you’ve stocked up on what you need and decided to stay home out of harm’s way – or more to the point, out of germ’s way – how can you feel more patient and less stressed?

I have some suggestions!

patience stress relief.png

The Feel Better Recipe

First, just accept that once you’ve done what you can do to help yourself, which includes minimizing exposure – there’s little else that you can do. I wrote about symptoms and precautions, here. The best thing you can do is wash, stay home and remain vigilant.

If someone you know or love doesn’t understand why we need to limit or eliminate social interaction at this point, here’s an article that explains how NOT to be stupid, as well as an article here about what flattening the curve means and why social distancing is our only prayer at this point to potentially avoid disaster. We are all in this together and we all have a powerful role to play – just by staying at home.

Educating and encouraging others to take precautionary steps might help, but worrying isn’t going to help anything because you can’t affect much beyond your own sphere of influence. As much as we wish we could affect the virus itself, or increase the testing supply, or influence good decision-making by others, we generally can’t.

What can we do, aside from sharing precautionary information and hoping that we are “heard?”

We can try to release the worry.

patience zen.png

If you sit there thinking about releasing the worry, which means you’re focused on worrying – that’s probably not going to be very productive.

Neither is drinking your entire supply of Jack Daniels in one sitting – not the least of which is because you may need that as hand sanitizer down the road a bit. Oh, wait, hand sanitizer is supposed to be more than 60% alcohol, which would be 120 proof. Never mind, go ahead and drink the Jack Daniels😊

What you really need is a distraction. Preferably a beneficial distraction that won’t give you a hangover. Not like my distraction this past month when the washing machine flooded through the floor into the basement including my office below. No, not that kind of distraction.

Some folks can “escape the world,” in a sense, by watching TV, but I’m not one of those people. I need to engage my mind with some sort of structure and I want to feel like I’m accomplishing something. If you’re a “TV” person, you’re probably watching TV now and not reading this anyway – so I’m guessing that’s not my readership audience, by and large.

Beneficial Distractions

Here are 20 wonderful ideas for fun and useful things to do – and guess what – they aren’t all genealogy related. Let’s start with something that will make you feel wonderful.

labyrinth

  1. Take a walk – outside, but not around other people. Your body and mind will thank you. Your body likes to move and exercise generates beneficial feel-good endorphins, reducing anxiety. Remember to take hand sanitizer with you and open doors by pushing with your arm or hip, if possible. Also, if you need to get fuel for your vehicle, take disposable gloves to handle the pump. Disinfectant, soap and water is your friend – maybe your best friend right now.

patience books.png

  1. Read a book. Escapism, pure and simple. I have a stack of books just waiting. If you don’t, you can download e-books to your Kindle or iPad or phone directly from Amazon without going anyplace or have books delivered directly to your door. Try Libby Copeland’s The Lost Family, which you can order here. It’s dynamite. (My brother and my story are featured, which I wrote about here.) If you’d like DNA education, you can order Diahan Southard’s brand new book, Your DNA Guide: Step by Step Plans, here. I haven’t read Diahan’s book, but I’m familiar with the quality of her work and don’t have any hesitation about recommending it. (Let me know what you think.) And hey, you don’t even need hand sanitizer for this!

patience check box.png

  1. Check your DNA matches at all the vendors where you’ve tested. If you don’t check daily, now would be a good time to catch up. Not just autosomal matches, but also Y and mitochondrial at Family Tree DNA. Those tests often get overlooked. Maybe some of your matches have updated their trees or earliest known ancestor information.

patience tree.png

  1. Speaking of trees, update your trees on the three DNA/genealogy sites that support trees: FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage and Ancestry. Keeping your tree up to date through at least the 8th generation (including their children) enables the companies to more easily connect the dots for their helpful tools like Phased Family Matching aka bucketing at FamilyTreeDNA, Theories of Family Relativity aka TOFR at MyHeritage and ThruLines at Ancestry.

patience connect.png

  1. Connect your known matches to their appropriate place on your tree at Family Tree DNA, as illustrated above. This provides fuel for Family Tree DNA to be able to designate your matches as maternal or paternal, even if your mother and father haven’t tested. In this case, I’ve connected my first cousin once removed who matches me in her proper location in my tree. People who match my cousin and I both are assigned to my maternal bucket.

patience y dna.pngpatience mtdna.png

  1. Order or upgrade a Y DNA or mitochondrial DNA test or a Family Finder autosomal test for you or a family member at Family Tree DNA. Upgrades, shown above, are easy if the tester has already taken at least one test, because DNA is banked at the lab for future orders. You don’t have to go anyplace to do this and DNA testing results and benefits last forever. Your DNA works for you 24x7x365.

patience join project.png

patience projects.png

  1. Join a free project at FamilyTreeDNA. Those can be surname projects, haplogroup projects, regional projects such as Acadian AmeriIndian and other interest topics like American Indian. You can search or browse for projects of interest and collaborate with others. Projects are managed by volunteer administrators who obviously have an interest in the project’s topic.

patience match.png

  1. At each of the vendors, find your highest autosomal match whom you cannot place as a relative. Work on their line via tree construction and then utilizing clustering using Genetic Affairs. I wrote about Genetic Affairs, an amazing tool, here, which you can try for free.

patience familysearch wiki.png

patience claiborne.png

  1. Check the FamilySearch WIKI for your genealogy locations by googling “Claiborne County, Tennessee FamilySearch wiki” where you substitute the location of where you are searching for “Claiborne County, Tennessee.” FamilySearch is free and the WIKI includes resources outside of FamilySearch itself, including paid and other free sites.

patience familysearch records.png

  1. While you’re at it, if you haven’t already, create a FamilySearch account and create or upload a tree to FamilySearch. It will be connected to branches of existing trees to create one large worldwide tree. Yes, you’ll be frustrated in some cases because there are incorrect ancestors sometimes listed in the “big tree” – BUT – there are procedures in place to remediate that situation. The important aspect is that FamilySearch, which is free, provides hints and resources not available any other place for some ancestors. Not long ago, I found a detailed estate packet that I had no idea existed – for a female ancestor no less. You can search at FamilySearch for ancestors, genealogies, records and in other ways. New records become available often.  This will keep you occupied for days, I promise!

Patience Journal.png

  1. Begin a Novel Coronavirus Covid-19 Pandemic journal. Think of your descendants 100 years in the future. Wouldn’t you like to know what your great-grandparents were doing during the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic? Or even their siblings or neighbors, because that was likely similar to what your ancestors were doing as well. You don’t have to write much daily – just write. Not just facts, but how you feel as well. Are you afraid, concerned specifically about someone? What’s going on with you – in your mind? That’s the part of you that your descendants will long to know a century from now.

Quilt rose

  1. Create something with your hands. I made a quilt this week for an ailing friend, unrelated to this epidemic. No, I didn’t “have time” to do that, but I made time because this quilt is important, and I know they need the “get well’’” wishes and love that quilt will wrap them in. It always feels good to do something for someone else.

patience gardening.jpg

  1. Garden, or in my case, that equates to pulling weeds. Not only is weeding productive, you can work off frustration by thinking about someone or something that upsets you as you yank those weeds out by their roots. Of course, that means you’ll have to first decide what is, and is not, a weed😊. That could be the toughest part.

patience smart matches.png

  1. At MyHeritage, you can use Irish records for free this month, plus try a free subscription, here in order to access all the rest of the millions of records available at MyHeritage. Check for Smart Matches for ancestors, shown above, and confirm that they are accurate, meaning that the ancestor the other person has in their tree is the same person as you have in your tree – even if they aren’t exactly identical. You don’t need to import any of their information, and I would suggest that you don’t without reviewing every piece of information individually. Confirming Smart Matches helps MyHeritage build Theories of Family Relativity – not to mention you may discover additional information about your ancestors. While you’re checking Smart Matches, who ARE those other people with your grandmother in their tree. Are they relatives who might have information that you don’t? This is a good opportunity to reach out. And what are those 12 pending record matches? Inquiring minds want to know. Let’s check.
patience newspapers

Click to enlarge.

  1. Check either NewsPapers.com or the Newspaper collection at MyHeritage, or both, systematically, for each ancestor. You never know what juicy tidbits you might discover about your ancestors. Often, things “forgotten” by families are the informative morsels you’ll want to know and are hidden in those local news articles. These newsy community newspapers bring the life and times of our ancestors to light in ways nothing else can. Wait, what? My Brethren ancestor, Hiram Ferverda, pleaded guilty to something??? I’d better read this article!

patience interview.png

  1. Interview your relatives. Make a list of questions you’d like for them to answer about themselves and the most distant common ancestors that they knew, or knew about. You can conduct interviews without being physically together via the phone or Skype or Facetime. Document what was said for the future, in writing, and possibly by recording as well. After someone has passed, hearing their voice again is priceless.

Upload download

  1. Transfer your DNA file to vendors that accept transfers, getting more bang for your testing dollars by finding more matches. 23andMe and Ancestry don’t accept transfers.  At MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA, transfers are free and so is matching, but advanced tools require a small unlock fee. I wrote a step-by-step series about how to transfer, here. Each article includes instructions for transferring from or to Ancestry, MyHeritage, 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA. Don’t forget to upload to GedMatch for additional tools.

patience brick wall.jpg

  1. Focus on your most irritating brick wall and review what records you do, and don’t have that could be relevant. That would include local, county, state and federal records, tax lists, census, church records and minutes and local histories if they exist. Have you called the local library and asked about vertical files or other researchers? What about state archive resources? Don’t forget activities like google searches. Have you utilized all possible DNA clues, including Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA, if applicable? How about third-party tools like Genetic Affairs and DNAgedcom?

patience DNApainter.png

  1. Try DNAPainter, for free. Painting your chromosomes and walking those segments back in time to your ancestors from whom they descended is so much fun. Not to mention you can integrate ethnicity and now traits, too. I’ve written instructions for using using DNAPainter in a variety of ways, here.

patience webinars.png

  1. Expand your education by watching webinars at Legacy Family Tree Webinars. Many are free and a yearly subscription is very reasonable. Take a look, here.

patience bucket.png

  1. Spring cleaning your house or desk. Ewww – cleaning – the activity that is never done and begins undoing itself immediately after you’ve finished? Makes any of the above 20 activities sound wonderful by comparison, right? I agree, so pick one and let’s get started!

Let me know what you find. Write about your search activities and discoveries in your Pandemic journal too.

_____________________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

  • Celebrate DNA – customized DNA themed t-shirts, bags and other items

Phylogenetic Tree of Novel Coronavirus (hCoV-19) Covid-19

Covid Pedigree.png

I found this information about the phylogenetic tree of Covid-19 very interesting, in part, due to how rapidly this virus mutates.

Note that this tree was constructed with shared contributed information from just 333 samples, and that as of today, we know of 126,000+ confirmed cases, meaning that there are assuredly many more and this tree is a bare bones structure.

This tree and additional information can be viewed in various ways on this site.

Covid branching.png

Imagine how vast this tree would look if we could see the entire branching tree structure. This also explains the phenomenon of rapid viral mutation to either more or less virulent strains, and why “next year’s” vaccine will only be partially effective against a strain that was prevalent a few months earlier.

Let’s talk about mutations for a minute. We look at trees like this for the history of mankind or womankind over tens of thousands of years, not a 9 or 10 week timeline in the evolution of a virus.

If you look at that orange branch at about 5 o’clock, you can easily imagine that branch mutating to be nearly harmless, and the red branch at about 2 o’clock mutating to be even more deadly. It would be some time until we discovered that the different tree branches were behaving in different ways, and then even longer to determine how to harvest that information and distill it to be useful for prevention or cure.

I also found it very interesting to view the source of the various viral strains in the Americas on a GIS map.

Covid infection map.png

The strain in western Canada originated in Iran, as did the strain in New Zealand and one in Australia. Of course, the Iranian line originally came from China. Some infections in Australia came directly from China, as did most of the European pockets. South America and Mexico both arrived from Italy, as did many of the UK infections, although some appear to have passed through the Netherlands and Belgium first.

If you ever had any doubt in your mind about world being high interconnected, this should remove any question.

Take a few minutes and look at all of the informational options on this website. It’s wonderfully cool and is not limited to this outbreak.

I’ve updated my original article with additional resources as they’ve become available – in particular this “active case” map.

Keep yourself safe. Wash, limit social contact and hey, do some genealogy!

_____________________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

  • Celebrate DNA – customized DNA themed t-shirts, bags and other items