Pandemic Journal: Mud-wrestling with Pigs and a Pandemic Rainbow

Pandemic pig.jpg

My Hoosier step-father used to have a slew of wonderful sayings, but one of his favorites was:

Never mud-wrestle with a pig. You can’t win. You get dirty. The pig enjoys it and the spectators can’t tell the difference.

We used to call this time of year “the dog days of summer” but right now, I’m calling it the “mud-wrestling season.” Pretty much everyone is miserable one way or another. I’m afraid this will extend throughout 2020. I don’t know, but that certainly looks like a possibility.

I started the Pandemic Journal series of articles for a couple of reasons. Initially, to inform, then to discuss in the context of what our ancestors went through. I expected the Covid experience to be relatively short-lived, a couple of months that seemed like years, and these journal articles to be short-lived as well. I thought we would all isolate and wear masks and get this monster under control. But that’s unfortunately very clearly not what has happened.

And now, school in person in a few days? Oy!

Pandemic Fatigue

pandemic fatigue

The sheer magnitude of this monster Covid-storm that has overwashed us, combined with the length of time and some degree of hopelessness has combined to create what I’m referring to as pandemic fatigue. I don’t know if that’s a real word or not, but it should be.

Not only are we actually physically exhausted because of the constant emotional upheaval of pandemic+politics, the second of which I’m not going to touch on at all, but we’re tired of being at home. We are grieving our “former lives,” not to mention all of life’s stressors that still occur but may be exacerbated by job loss, income loss, insurance loss, and of course, the virus itself.

It’s like normal life is still trying to take place under the unrelenting cloud of Covid. For example, people are marrying, graduating from school, having babies, and dying.

My cat is dying too, slowly, making our family extremely sad. Layers of grief on layers of grief. Still, we distance, trying to clutch as much of pre-pandemic life as possible while staying safe. For example, when the time comes, probably in a few days, we won’t be able to be with our beloved Phoenix when she crosses the rainbow bridge, assisted by our kind vet. There’s no need to expose him or us, no matter how much we want to be in the room with her. I can’t help but think of all of the Covid victims dying alone too, and their families.

Some people aren’t continuing to distance and are paying a hefty price. Many are taking chances that really aren’t necessary.

My methodology for making these decisions is really simple. What’s the worst that can happen?

  • If I wear and mask or stay home when I didn’t need to, nothing truly bad happens. Am I happy? No. Am I at risk? No. Am I risking anyone else’s health? No.
  • If I don’t mask and distance and get Covid, I can spread it to friends and family, I can die, kill others, or live with horrid debility and/or incur massive bills. We still don’t understand the extent of what this virus does to human bodies or long-term effects. My friend went to the ER for Covid symptoms, tested positive, was not admitted, went home only to receive a 12K medical bill a month later. The Covid test itself was free, but the rest was not. She had already lost her job and has no insurance. How is she supposed to pay that bill?

For me, the decision pretty much makes itself. The gray area is introduced when defining “necessary” and that line-in-the-sand is different for everyone, or at least different in every state with so many disparate and inconsistent levels of “rules” about what can and cannot be done.

Not to mention, “can” and “should” are vastly different things.

pandemic garden.jpg

Thankfully, I can go outside and sit on the deck and walk around my yard, but those aren’t options for everyone.

However, it’s still difficult for me, sitting by myself, seeing photos of places I’d like to be and people I’d like to see – but I can’t. Especially if they are seeing each other and I’m the odd man out. I can’t help but think, “just this once,” but that’s exactly how this disease is spread. You only get to be wrong once.

pandemic wildflower garden

Try not to think about what you’re missing. Try to be positive. Take a deep breath. Try not to cry, again. Here, have another garden picture.

My situation is better than a lot of people who don’t have a deck to sit on or a yard to walk in. They live in multi-generational households where they can’t distance or in apartment buildings. Some people are exposed because their family members are essential workers.

Some people are exposed because they are cautiously optimistic and venture out when they probably shouldn’t. Some have simply thrown caution to the wind. In a pandemic, everyone’s decisions affect everyone else. Six degrees of separation on steroids.

For some time, people on social media were saying that they didn’t even know anyone who had contracted Covid, so it didn’t exist where they lived or was being exaggerated. I don’t really hear that much anymore. I have cousins who have died. One is in intensive care as I type this. Close friends have it and others have had it. Yet another friend’s mother died. One of the places I obtained carry-out is now closed due to an employee testing positive this week. It’s killing people in the nursing homes here as well. There’s no doubt, it’s every single place in America now. No one is safe or exempt.

By now, Covid has directly affected almost everyone, and I’m not referring to financially through shutdowns and job loss which some would argue were political in nature. (I’m not touching that topic either.) I’m referring to the virus itself.

And anyone who is looking clearly understands what’s coming. Our only prayer is if by some miracle everyone magically starts to wear masks and stay home. And indeed, I mean everyone, because only “some” people wearing masks didn’t work before and is why we are where we are right now – with an epidemic spiraling out of control.

And yes, a vaccine, IF it works, and IF it arrives by year-end will help immensely, but we all have to survive that long. Many won’t. We’re at 153,314 deaths from Covid today and most models have us hitting 200K within a month. I’m afraid to look at the projection by year-end.

Oh yea, and because pandemic stress wasn’t enough, we’re now having pandemic+politics+hurricanes too. In Florida of all places, already a Covid hotspot, with Hurricane Isaias projected to make landfall today with high tides making things even worse there and up the east coast over the next few days. Batten down the hatches.

2020 promises to be the year we all want to forget.

The Common Thread

There is one common thread in all of this though – and that is that everyone is super stressed. If you just thought to yourself, “that’s an understatement,” you’re right.

pandemic contrails.jpg

We are all looking up at the contrails of planes in the sky and thinking about what we aren’t doing that we want to do. Where we were planning to go, but now can’t. Activities we want to do or events we want to attend, but can’t. Who we long to see, but can’t. Who has died and we’ll never see again. We can’t even attend funerals.

There’s a lot of loss, for sure.

I’m hoping that I can do some of these things in the after-time, and that there will be an after-time. Some days, gratitude to be alive and hope for the future is all we have.

As a result, people have more time for social media, are commenting more, and are “less nice.” Yes, I know that’s an understatement too. Everyone seems to have their knickers in a knot just now.

“Less nice” often translates into hurtful commentary to or about others, when no comments would suffice. When a “negativity leader” emerges, more people pile on. Of course, that just raises the stress level of everyone involved, especially the person being bullied. Adrenaline and stress hormones flood bodies, causing people who feel they are under attack to have a “flight or fight” response – and in an electronic world, that means either disengage and go for a walk or “fight” online as a keyboard warrior.

No one wins and the exchange is simply ugly and hurtful. Have another flower picture.

Pandemic phlox

Take a deep breath and count to 10. Have some lilies.

pandemic lily.jpg

Now we’re at the point where my Dad’s mud-wrestling with a pig commentary comes into play.

Seriously, no one is going to even consider anyone’s point of view because they are too busy “talking and typing,” to listen, even if they had once been inclined. And that’s assuming there isn’t any other agenda or issue in the mix. Yea, more flowers…

pandemic red lily

Maintaining an Even Keel

When people are stressed, especially for a long period of time, like pandemic fatigue, it seems to bring out either the worst or the best in people. It also dramatically affects mental health. Here are some thoughts and ideas, aside from flower pictures, that you may find helpful. I try to think of these when I see people reacting, and when I consider my health and behavior as well.

  • People who already suffer from depression or other mental health issues may need to have their medications adjusted.
  • People who never previously suffered from depression may be suffering from it now. Here’s a list of symptoms to watch for. If this might apply to you, make sure to exercise, get enough sunshine and disengage from triggers, like social media if that’s affecting you negatively.
  • People who had borderline mental health issues pre-pandemic may have crossed over the edge due to any number of stressors and need medical assistance now. You may be viewing the results of that on social media, or seeing it in the behavior of family members.
  • Doomscrolling. I didn’t even know this was a “thing,” but apparently it is, related to the consumption of news which is almost entirely negative (what news isn’t negative today,) and I’m guilty of it to some extent. You can read about doomscrolling and its effects, especially during the pandemic, here.
  • To address doomscrolling and negativity, I’ve done a number of things:
    1. Unfriended or unfollowed people who bring pain or unpleasantness into my life. Unfortunately, there have been more than I would have anticipated and some that were shocking. I will discuss any topic. I will not tolerate attacks, disrespect, condescension, or hatefulness, directed toward me or others. If there’s any good news to this part of the equation, it’s that the pandemic has unmasked many people for their real selves, many of whom I’ve found very disheartening and disappointing. That discovery adds another level of grief, but their removal from my social media feed removes the chronic negativity issue.
    2. Focusing on people who are positive by nature. That does not mean they are Pollyannas, irresponsible, or unconcerned about the pandemic, but it does mean they are not pushing conspiracy theories or constant negativity by default. I don’t mind seeing some negative things, because that is our reality right now, but I also want to see pictures of your kids, your cats, your lunch, a flower, your family tree, your new t-shirt, your Amazon order, something, anything that feels “normal.”
    3. Find ways to support others, to the best of my ability. You already know I made masks, and have a few more to make over the weekend. I also make care quilts, but right now, there is no way to make them fast enough. I’ve also been making quilts to keep for myself, because they make me feel good, and right now, I’m important too.
    4. I do feel that as a responsible adult, I need to stay current with what is occurring. However, I’ve located a couple of non-inflammatory daily summary sources and I have specific times of the day that I check social media.
  • I’m limiting my work time because my “default” is to work more and more and sit in front of my computer longer and longer each day. Unfortunately, at this point, I can never catch up, so that just makes things worse. I receive hundreds of emails every day, many asking questions that the sender thinks will “only take a minute,” which is a compliment, but nonetheless incorrect. (I do offer Quick Consults, here.)
  • People with addiction issues are relapsing. Addiction doesn’t only mean alcohol or drugs but includes other compulsive self-medicating comfort disorders. Eating comes to mind, but there are many more. Counselors and support groups are available online – just google. Is buying quilt fabric an addictive behavior? Asking for a friend😊
  • People with mental health issues are really struggling, and they are not always who you think they might be. When you observe someone acting hateful or awful towards someone else, it’s one of a few things – an active choice meaning their real personality is showing through, a really bad day (that excuse doesn’t work for repeated incidents) or a mental health issue. Regardless of which it is, you don’t need to engage with or tolerate their behavior. Some days my mantra is “just keep on scrolling.”
  • Sometimes when people are silent, it’s not because they can’t or don’t want to “defend themselves.” It’s because they’ve chosen to be kind and not act hatefully or hurtfully. Attempting to hurt someone else is never beneficial and “winning” in that manner doesn’t make someone a good person or a winner. I always remember who behaved that way. Silence does not equate to “losing.” Losing one’s composure publicly is rarely a good thing.
  • Develop a self-imposed embargo policy. When I’m angry, my personal rule is that I don’t reply for 24 hours. If I’m still angry, it’s 48 hours. By then, it seldom matters. This has saved me a lot of grief over the years and probably a lot of embarrassment too. An embargo doesn’t mean I’m silent to my family or close friends, it just means publicly.
  • People don’t have to engage in every fight they’re invited to. There’s no requirement to take the bait. Generally, bait is a sure-fire sign of danger. Ask any fish!
  • Each of us chooses how to behave, both on and offline. Choose to be kind, or silent. You never have to regret that choice.
  • Sometimes, kindness is simply keeping my mouth shut. Having said that, I do feel from time to time that I have a moral imperative to speak truth to power, understanding that it will likely cause me to become a target. Still, I always say what I have to say respectfully. I will not engage in the “nasty girls” game. There is a fundamental difference between a difference of opinion, a movement for change and a war. If people choose to target me after I speak truthfully, so be it – it’s probably a sign of effectiveness. Still, it takes courage to speak, knowing what will likely be forthcoming. I’m grateful to people like John Lewis, John McCain, William Tully Brown and Rosa Parks for their courage and inspiration. One day I’ll write about attending Rosa’s funeral visitation. John and Rosa peacefully spoke, stood their ground and have inspired me repeatedly over the years, especially when I’m frightened. If or when we are attacked, we can always choose to be kind and be silent, taking into consideration the situation. Silence is sometimes more powerful than words. Sometimes it’s the other way around. Words, however, can cut like a knife, so choose wisely. People are already hurting.
  • On the bright side, when speaking truth-to-power, you immediately discover who your friends are and who are fair-weather acquaintances of convenience. That holds true as well for when bad things happen in your life and you need help. Those who step-up are gold! The rest weren’t really your friends and culled themselves. Be grateful.
  • I always weigh my behavior based on how I would feel if a potential employer or my granddaughters as adults saw what I said. Am I being my best self? How would I feel if one of my granddaughters posted what I was about to say? How would I counsel them?

In other words, never mud-wrestle with a pig. You can’t win. You get dirty. The pig enjoys it. The spectators can’t tell the difference.

Besides that, if I do perish in this pandemic, I don’t want to be remembered for being hateful. I may not be able to control this pandemic, or what others say or do, but I surely can control the substance of my own legacy.

Pandemic Rainbow

When will the Pandemic Journal series end?

Truthfully, I don’t know. This might be the last article in the series, because this seems to have become a way of life, not a temporary glitch.

Of course, by now, I thought I would have already written the “victory” “we’re free again and it’s over” article. I thought I’d be going to genealogy conferences and quilt retreats, but I’m not and everything this fall and much of winter has already canceled or simply wasn’t scheduled.

I don’t know if or when this plague will ever end. As we enter into the days of diminishing light, the fall and winter in the northern hemisphere, I expect the pandemic to worsen, along with its associated challenges.

I don’t want to write negative articles or those that only serve to depress already depressed people.

One positive aspect that I’m seeing is that some people’s obsession is genealogy and with more time, they are really focusing on uncovering those ancestors. This is one kind of addictive behavior I heartily endorse!! I’ve been the recent beneficiary and I’ve been able to gift others as well.

I hope that you think about the life and times of your ancestors, the situations they encountered, the decisions they made, and how plagues and pestilences influenced, affected or ended their lives. Perhaps fear of a viral enemy that seems to be overpowering us sheds light on their lives before the days of modern medical care.

Now you can understand the ever-tightening fingers of fear that clutched their hearts as the Bubonic Plague, also known as the Black Death because of what it did to the bodies of its victims, engulfed their world. Ironic, isn’t it, that Plague doctors wore masks then, thinking that the beak filled with aromatics would filter out the offending disease particles present in “bad air.”

Today, we know masks work and greatly improve the chances of staying well, yet not everyone wears them.

pandemic plague doctor

I hope your ancestors bring you comfort, in their presence or their absence that causes you to have to search for them. Perhaps we can think of this grey and difficult time, retrospectively, after the storm has passed and the sun sets on this chapter of our lives as the time of great genealogy breakthroughs. Perhaps our ancestors will serve as a pandemic rainbow.

pandemic rainbow.jpg

Partial double rainbow beneath storm clouds with the sunset reflecting off of the clouds, taken from the center of the labyrinth.

_____________________________________________________________

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

Pandemic Journal: Rise Up

I haven’t said much, because I literally just don’t know what to say anymore.  My heart aches and I’m tired. Very emotionally tired.

Is there an opportunity, someplace, buried in this bleakness?

God, I hope so. My lips to God’s ears.

Straight Up

We, in America, are on a run-away pandemic freight train. The graphics in this article from National Geographic show the ugly going-straight-up line of daily new infections on the chart. Yet, we seem unwilling to do the small things, specifically one small thing, that can and does make a huge difference.

For many, perhaps including you, a life-and-death difference.

If that’s not bad enough we are enduring the most toxic, divisive political Hell I’ve ever experienced, mixed with civil unrest. Plus – hate speech everyplace. Social media has become unsocial media. That’s like multiple rings of Hell with multiple Satans in every one.

No One is Exempt

No get-out-of-jail free card. No pass. No redo. This is not an escape room. There is no escaping this one.

There is only action – NOW! By each and every one of us taking personal responsibility.

Friends are ill or unemployed and many have experienced deaths of family members.

Two friend’s mothers dead of Covid, my other friend’s uncle, another and another and another are added to the list – someone almost every day now, horribly ill or gone after a torturous battle. And those who “recover” don’t exactly get well. It’s not “like the flu.” Just google for those stories. They are brutal and people are left with permanent organ damage, still suffering miserably weeks and weeks later.

Very few people, if any, are NOT at risk right now, either physically, economically, or both. Businesses are shuttering and cutting back. Not to mention those who are losing their employer-sponsored health insurance when they need it most.

You may want to read the personal accounts of Dr. Erik Martin, a physician who survived the Covid trenches of NYC and is now fighting Covid in his overwhelmed community in Missouri. This isn’t primed and edited for publication – just his personal journey on his Facebook page as he does battle with this monster. Every. Single. Day.

If you don’t like the media, listen to Erik. He has no agenda.

Dichotomy

4th sky.jpg

Yet, if you look outside, you see sunshine and blue skies which belie the tsunami which is unarguably rolling towards us, one by one, at breakneck speed. I fear we have no prayer now of avoiding some form of personal devastation. That opportunity is gone. Now we must mitigate damage as best we can and deal with the rest.

Our eyes tell us one thing – everything’s fine in the back yard. Flowers are blooming and life is just like it is every other hot summer day, in all the years that have come before.

4th roses

No need NOT to BBQ and have family over. Right?

I mean, what could it hurt? Really?

Then, turn on the TV news and look at the hospitals overwhelmed in Houston with over 22,000 currently active cases in their county which is also home to the largest medical complex in the world.

Read the story about the birthday party at which 18 of 25 adults caught Covid, including both elderly parents and a cancer patient who are hospitalized. Family members said they tried to social distance and the party was only for a couple hours. But, that clearly wasn’t enough and there’s no way to tell until it’s too late, way too late.

All it takes is one time, the wrong time. Getting way with “cheating” once instills a false sense of security. Nothing happened so let’s do it again. That false feeling that “it’s OK, nothing happened” emboldens people to engage in repeated risky behavior.

It’s kind of like not using birth control. Do it enough and pregnancy will happen. You just don’t know which time. I know several of those surprises that are lovely people. However, Covid is never lovely. It’s deadly. There is no upside or redeeming qualities.

No, warm weather doesn’t kill this virus. Neither does denial. And clearly, if other countries have wrestled this monster to the ground, we could have too, but we haven’t.

In for the Long Haul

For the record, I’m still staying home, wearing a mask when I do need to go out, and I will until we have a vaccine or the virus finishes with us. Let’s hope it’s the former and soon.

And yes, I do other socially responsible things to protect myself and others too, like pay for insurance, wear a seatbelt, and not drink and drive. You get the drift I’m sure. Making those decisions are easy because the potential consequences certainly aren’t worth non-compliance.

Wearing a mask isn’t any different and it unquestionably saves lives – yours, those you love, and people you don’t even know but can infect even though you’re asymptomatic.

We don’t think anything of paying for house or car insurance that we hope we’ll never use – but some people are very resistant to wearing a mask which is both easy and free and we unquestionably need in the current circumstances. It’s free insurance for both us and everyone around us.

It’s like refusing a free gift that will save your life.

The 4th of July

pexels-photo-769525

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com

It’s the 4th of July, and I don’t feel like celebrating in the traditional way this year. I fear for our democracy. I cringe when I hear vile, hate-filled words spewing from the mouths of Americans, directed at each other.

Vitriol and ignorance combined are a horrible, lethal, toxic brew. I’m stunned to witness the behavior of some people I thought I knew much better. Others, however, like cream, have risen to the top. I’m so proud of them.

I ask myself, is this hatefulness really what we have become? Or, has this climate simply unmasked selfishness and lack of concern for others that was always present? Can those who refuse to comply with something as easy as wearing a mask actually still be ignorant after all this time?

How did wearing a mask to protect yourself and others in the middle of a pandemic, a MASSIVE, overwhelming pandemic that’s killing Americans by the 10s of thousands, infecting more than 50,000 each and every day, and RISING, become a weaponized political statement? Not to mention people continue to gather when it’s unwise, even if not forbidden.

I hope the tide is turning. I’m afraid it will be too little, too late. I pray I’m wrong and that this tide turns quickly.

Every one of us needs to be that good example to help turn this boat around.

I Don’t Want to Either

I fully understand why no one wants to think about this. I understand why people want to try to pretend it doesn’t exist – especially in warm weather when it seems everything is just fine.

We’re all exhausted and we need a break.

4th lavender.jpg

The lavender is blooming, the butterflies are flitting. All looks superficially well with the world. Everything just looks so, well, normal. But this picture is deceptive because life is not normal this year – regardless of bucolic appearances that serve to confuse our aching brains.

I don’t want any of this to exist either and I certainly don’t want to think about what’s coming. But it’s going to arrive, one way or the other, and your actions, or inactions, literally will make the determination of who lives and dies in the Covid-lottery.

And to be clear, you don’t get to vote on the question of who – because by the time you know, it’s way, way too late.

Choose Love as Your Legacy

Perhaps this mental overwhelm, anguish and emotional fatigue is why I’ve been so focused on genealogy, quilting, and yes, even cleaning things – in the hope that there IS a future to be lived with those I love. Plus, I can do all of those at home.

Maybe I’m just whistling past the graveyard.

You don’t know who will be left at the end of this journey. Love everyone like there’s no tomorrow. Because there might not be.

Think about your legacy. You are living it now.

How do you feel about the last thing you said to someone, or posted on social media being the last thing you say – ever? Are you satisfied with those as your parting words?

Will you be the person who infected someone who dies, like that family of 25 who had the party? My friend’s mom who died contracted Covid on Mother’s Day when her family visited? Try living with that for the rest of your life. Her Dad’s life is still hanging in the balance.

Or will you be the voice of kindness and reason?

You get to choose one way or the other with your every action. In these pandemic times – your choice really does matter.

Will you rise up to meet the challenge?

Rise Up

Now’s the time.

Rise up.

Rise up and be counted for what you believe.

Rise up for good.

Rise up for right.

Rise up to protect others.

Rise up to defeat hatred.

Rise up and wear a mask.

Rise up and bring someone else with you.

I decided to write this article because I want to share this incredibly beautiful song; Rise Up – an inspiration even on the darkest of personal days. You need this even if you don’t know it😊

Trust me on this one.

Music that will touch your soul with love, raise your spirits and infuse you with hope.

This unbelievably moving duet by mother and son will cause your allergies to act up, immediately. Unlesss you’re already cutting onions, of course.

I give you….Rise Up – Andra Day // Cover by Mother and Son (Jordan Rabjohn Cover)

4th rise up4th rise up mother

Click here to watch on YouTube.

Rise. Up.

_____________________________________________________________

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

Pandemic Journal: Trouble in the Heart Land

No words black3

As if a pandemic wasn’t enough, there’s more.

This week, two more deaths, mothers of friends who both died horrific Covid deaths, alone – one after a physician declined to test her and sent her back home to isolate. Turns out, he sent her home to die.

I delivered yet another care quilt. There aren’t enough tears or enough quilts to assuage the unrelenting hemorrhaging.

There is overwhelming grief in so many families as the number ticks up to and passes 109,000 deaths in this country. 5890 people have died of Covid in the US in the past seven days, and 1500 just yesterday.

It’s not stopping and it’s not over. Not even close.

And yet, I observe people in public, walking around in stores, many with children, with no masks for anyone.

They may be “done with Covid” as one t-shirt proclaimed, but mark my words, Covid is not done with us yet.

My friend’s mother’s death occurred after a family member infected her on Mother’s Day weekend, and now her husband, my friend’s father, has it too. So, killing Grandma just got very real for this family, not just a platitude people think is meant to scare them into compliance with something as horribly personally invasive as wearing a face mask.

Once it’s too late, it’s too late. There is no redo.

As my friend said, “We would do anything, absolutely anything, to bring her back.” She explained, in detail, her mother’s horrific death, alone. I desperately wanted to put my hands over my ears and block it out, but my friend had to live it, and her mother had to die it, so the least I could do was listen to it. My friend is suffering too.

She said, “All we had to do was NOT visit her, or wear masks, and everyone didn’t. I didn’t press the issue. It seemed like it was OK – and now she’s dead. I’ll never forgive myself.”

And now, with the focus shifted to what borders on a national emergency, the importance of masks, social distancing and other prevention measures has retreated to a much less visible back burner.

Trouble in the Heart Land

There are few times in my life that I’ve been left entirely without words, bereft of inspiration. This day, this past week, is that time. So please forgive no DNA article this week.

I. Just. Can’t.

Furthermore, I feel that publishing about genealogy right now is disrespectful of the gravity of what this nation, and we as citizens, are facing. I’m not referring solely to the pandemic.

With the unrelenting pandemic, mounting deaths, unemployment, dams breaking in Michigan causing thousands to be evacuated, their homes destroyed, and then the horrific death of George Floyd last week and resulting violence – many of us have been pushed beyond the limits of our personal emotional endurance.

Not only that, but life’s “regular” frustrations and challenges continue too, complicated sometimes by our new reality, in addition to these added stressors.

It’s almost impossible to discuss this situation without an injection of politics, but I’m going to, because right now, the toxicity of politics is fueling all of these fires.

These “problems” belong to everyone, regardless of their politics, because we will all suffer the consequences – good or bad.

I am strongly, with every ounce of my being, opposed to what I saw happen to George Floyd in Minneapolis. I’m opposed as well to the system that allows that to happen to anyone.

Secondarily, I’m heartsick to see our cities and property within those cities burned and looted. Many of those mom-and-pop businesses were barely surviving Covid, and may not survive at all now.

Not only is that behavior unacceptable in and of itself, but it also distracts from and diminishes the message of non-violent protesters, whose voices clearly need to be heard – because obviously change wasn’t going to happen otherwise.

Opportunistic looting and violence detract attention that should be focused on George Floyd’s death and the cumulative situation and actions across days, months, years, and decades that allowed and caused this day to arrive.

George Floyd’s homicide was a horrific human rights violation that we have all now seen, from several, indisputable angles thanks to readily available video technology.

And yes, it just so happens to have occurred while the US is a tinder box, in the middle of a pandemic with record unemployment and the most toxic, divisive, political climate of my lifetime. Everyone is on edge and many are frustrated and angry for any variety of reasons. All it took was a spark and the result is a explosive fire stoked with gasoline.

Having said that, I also feel compelled to say that not all police officers are like the man, men, whose names I won’t utter, that murdered George Floyd.

My son is an officer, and so are my friends, both black and white, male and female, and I know first hand that the majority of officers choose to serve and protect and do so honorably. Those officers are horrified too, and right now, many officers are being targeted with violence because of their uniform, both on and off duty, along with their families, which is also wrong.

The difference this time, in Minneapolis, with George Floyd’s murder, is that with multiple public videos, there is no question about what happened before or during the encounter. The “resisting arrest,” excuse falls short, because one can’t “resist” very effectively after being handcuffed face down. After being restrained, there is no need to be “held down” for another 10 minutes by 3 men until the very life-breath is squeezed out of you.

We, the public, don’t have to try to figure out who to believe this time, because we can see the situation unfolding with our own eyes, watching every horrific second, for nearly 10 minutes in total, as even bystanders begged the officer with his knee on George Floyd’s neck to stop and an EMT repeatedly asked to check his pulse. Yet, that officer continued compressing his knee into George Floyd’s neck for 7 minutes as George repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe, called for his mother near the end, and finally, begged the officer not to kill him. Then, the officer continued for almost another 3 minutes after George lost consciousness. There is absolutely no possible justification.

George Floyd died, face down in the street, at the hands of 4 (now former) officers, in the full light of day, in front of a crowd, nonchalantly – like this was nothing out of the ordinary and happens every day.

Maybe, just maybe, that’s because it does.

I don’t know.

But here’s what I do know.

We need answers.

We need an impartial investigation.

Justice needs to occur.

Along with change.

Not just for George Floyd, but for all of the George Floyds in the future – regardless of the color of their skin.

The next George Floyd could be your father, son, brother, spouse, uncle…

We need to do better, as a society.

As humans.

Not just in Minneapolis.

We need to find ways to unite and not divide.

To heal these freshly re-opened wounds so that the next generation, and the next, don’t have to replay this scenario over and over again.

I thought we were past this as a society. We aren’t.

We need to provide the same protections for all Americans, all humans, regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, sex or gender – whether or not they look or act the same as or different from us.

People should not be demonized or vilified because of the color of their skin, their sex, or anything about them that they do not have control of. People must be held accountable for behaviors they do control.

Racism and systemic discrimination are what needs to die. Not just related to policing, but in each and every one of our hearts. That’s where evil lives and takes root.

We Are in This Stew Pot Together

I had hoped that this pandemic might convey a much-needed message that indeed, we, all of us, ARE IN THIS TOGETHER, because we are.

“This” isn’t just a pandemic, it’s life on this earth, and if we sanction and ignore crimes against any person or people unjustly, we ourselves become potential candidates for that same behavior when the tides turn one day.

We or another family member could be the next George Floyd – black, white, Jewish, Muslim, LGBTQ, female, whatever – fueled by hate and rage. It has happened before and it’s up to us to be sure it never happens again.

Or our mother, grandmother or another family member could be the next to die because we failed to take what really amounts to minor, inconvenient, pandemic precautions. Because we simply CHOOSE not to.

These deaths are all unjust, unnecessary, and preventable.

We just have to “want to” badly enough to do what’s necessary. Before someone dies, not after.

In reality, both situations boil down to respect and acting respectful to others. Wearing a mask is simple, painless and easy. Officers may need to arrest a man, but they don’t need to kill him in the circumstances we saw. There are appropriate situations for deadly force, and that clearly wasn’t one.

Do unto others…

Remember that?

These aren’t other people’s problems; the responsibility belongs to each and every one of us – individually and personally.

There is no us-versus-them. There is only “us.” There is no “them.”

Don’t allow any of these three deaths to be wasted. They didn’t die peacefully, but their final chapter has not yet been written. That’s up to us. We can assure that their legacy serves a larger purpose – these deaths being catalysts for good, for doing better, for change.

Look in the mirror.

What actions are you taking?

We need to ask ourselves how each and every one of us can make a difference, and act, so there won’t be more.

RIP

RIP

RIP

Pandemic Journal: Memorial Day 2020

Memorial half mast

This year, in addition to honoring our brave soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice, the US flag will be flown at half-mast as a national expression of grief. The brutal trail of Covid as it rips through our country and the world.

5,288 deaths in my state, alone, 98,004 in the US as I write this – probably rolling across the threshold of 100,000, ironically, on Memorial Day.

Why didn’t I round 98,004 to 98,000?

Because every single one of those people matter.

Those 1, 2, 3 and 4 people above 98,000 may seem like a rounding error, but they aren’t. They have names, families and they suffered, just like those 98,000 other souls.

They may not have been old – not that being older should make anyone expendable.

The best of their life may not have been lived. We are all deprived and diminished by the loss of their potential – as are they.

But they all, every single one of them, have something in common.

They were all infected unintentionally and probably unknowingly by someone else. No one, not one person, signed up for this. Most of them had no idea they were putting their life on the line as they went about their business. This isn’t the military – no one enlisted fully aware of what the consequences might be.

It pains me greatly to see wearing a mask in public politicized. Wearing a mask is literally the very least we can do. Taking care of each other by doing such a small thing. Like it or not, we really are all in this together. What goes around, comes around.

Let me explain the very basic foundation of decision making that I’ve utilized for most of my life.

What’s the Worst That Will Happen?

If you wear a mask and you don’t need to:

  • You may never know that you didn’t need it
  • You might be a little uncomfortable or inconvenienced
  • You might be made fun of by someone not wearing a mask

Bottom line – you’re slightly inconvenienced if you wear a mask but you might save someone’s life, including your own.

If you DON’T wear a mask and needed to, the worse is:

  • You take the unnecessary chance of getting infected yourself. No, a mask won’t protect you entirely, but it helps.
  • You may, unknowingly, infect others who may suffer and die. They then infect others too, keeping the cycle of infection and death in motion and the numbers rising.
  • You’ll probably never know that you are responsible for infecting others and possibly killing people because you may never develop symptoms yourself, so you think everything is just fine. If you do develop symptoms, it’s too late to undo the exposures of the days before you manifested symptoms.

Bottom line – you may become infected yourself and/or infect others. You’re not just risking yourself, but everyone you come in contact with. They may suffer and die, or live terribly impaired, and be financially devastated in the process.

And…this outcome is avoidable.

The preventative step of wearing a mask in public, especially in public enclosed spaces, is so simple and entirely painless.

Who’s Vulnerable?

Everyone.

My immediate family, consisting of 7 people, 5 adults and 2 children, is healthy.

But…of those 7…

  • One is over 65.
  • One young person has a partial lung.
  • One child has partial kidneys.
  • One has an ongoing undiagnosed health issue.
  • One has a high risk housemate who is over 60 and had a heart issue last year.

If your family member exposes you, and you expose me, I will expose my loved ones, intentionally or not. If my family member dies because I inadvertently exposed them, I would never forgive myself.

If they die, that gaping wound would never heal.

Right now, 98,004 families feel that exact same way.

And some unknown person infected every one of them, accidentally.

Honoring the Dead

Memorial Day is supposed to be about honoring our military dead who gave their life defending our country.

Memorial poppy

Memorial Day was called Decoration Day when I was a kid. It’s a federal holiday for honoring and mourning military personnel who died while on active duty.

Volunteers often place flags on graves of all veterans.

A single red poppy has come to represent the fallen, symbolizing each life lost.

The US has suffered a total of 666,441 combat casualties during wars and conflicts from 1775-2019, with an additional 673,929 dying of other causes.

Wars are expensive in terms of lives lost and soldiers torn from their futures and families.

War Years Deaths
Civil War (both sides) 1861-1865 755,000 estimated
WWII 1941-1945 405,399
WWI 1917-1918 116,516
Vietnam 1961-1975 58,209
Korea 1950-1953 36,574
Revolutionary War 1775-1783 25,000 estimated
War of 1812 1812-1815 15,000 estimated
Mexican-American 1846-1848 13,283
Iraq 2003-2011 4,576
Philippine-American 1899-1902 4,196
Spanish-American 1898 2,246
Afghanistan 2001-present 2,216

There is no glory in death and warfare. There is, however, immense gratitude and respect.

Thank you seems like so few and such small words for their sacrifice – but it’s all I have.

Thank you one and all.

Memorial Arlington

On Memorial Day, flags decorate the graves of our brave soldiers buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

My friend, Bob McLaren, who died in March will be buried there soon. I have decorated his grave in my heart and made masks in his honor.

Family Traditions

Memorial cemetery cleanup

In my family, Decoration Day was expanded to visiting and caring for all graves in the family. A combination of love for those gone, sorrow at the loss of their companionship and celebration of their life and the upcoming summer together – at least for those of us remaining on the green side of the sod.

Grass was manicured from the edges of the stones, stories were told and retold, and fresh-cut flowers lovingly placed.

In some locations, families spread quilts and have picnics in the cemeteries near their loved ones.

Memorial cemetery picnic

Military Family Members Honored

Ironically, few of my family members killed in the service of their country have stones.

James Claxton died in the War of 1812 and was buried in a now-lost hastily-dug grave just outside the stockade of Fort Decatur, Alabama.

My family members who died in the Civil War are buried anonymously; their battlefield resting places lost to time.

The body of my 1st cousin, Robert Vernon Estes, who died horrifically as a POW in Korea still hasn’t been returned, and likely never will.

Samuel Bolton Plank Cem

Samuel Bolton, my grandmother’s brother, gave his life during WWI. He was brought home and does have a stone. I hope someone is tending his grave today.

Frank Sadowski

And then, there’s Frank Sadowski, my mother’s almost-husband who was killed on Okinawa just days before the end of WWII.

All, lives cut short.

The Covid War

Depending on how you look at this, Covid deaths are approaching the total of all WWI combat deaths, or the combination of Vietnam, Korea and either the War of 1812 or the Revolutionary War.

Since February 28th – just under 3 months – 86 days.

That’s 1116 people on average that have died every single day – that we know of – not counting all the people who died but were never tested or diagnosed.

Look at this another way. The average commercial airliner holds between 150-200 passengers.

Using 150 as the average number, that’s 653 airliners that have crashed in 86 days, with everyone on board perishing. That’s 7.6 crashes per day, or one crash every 3 hours and 15 minutes – in the US alone.

Memorial week planes

Here are today’s planes that crashed and burned with 150 people each on board.

Just today.

Memorial month planes

Here are the planes from just this week.

Now, multiply that picture by 12.29 weeks since February 28th. If you printed that out on your printer it would be about 10 pages of solid airplanes.

And we know there are more coming, tomorrow, and the next day. We just don’t know how many more, or for how long.

So, are you willing to get on a plane and fly? That would take a lot of bravery, right?

But it takes no bravery at all to wear a mask. How about we do that instead, especially since masks can help prevent those Covid-planes from crashing!

Would preventing one plane crash be worth it?

Two?

Half of the crashes?

How many lives saved would be worth wearing a simple mask?

Memorial poppy field

If we need an extra 100,000 poppies this Memorial Day to honor the lives of each of the Covid victims since February, God forbid, if we don’t wear masks, stay home when we can and take precautions, how many will we need next Memorial Day?

If our ancestors can march off to war and lay their lives down for the rest of us, we can wear masks. People taking care of people.

And if we don’t, whose graves will you be decorating next Memorial Day?

Pandemic Journal: It’s a Web

Recently, I saw something that’s at once amazing, alarming, and haunting.

This YouTube video, here, shows aggregated anonymized cell phone data from March, provided by Tectonix Geo, a data analysis company. This is the same company that provided the maps showing travel patterns of spring-breakers on one beach in Florida, shown here.

A huge thank you to Tectonix Geo.

In the first Tectonix video about fixing the supply chain, they track travel to and from meat processing plants across the country during the month of March. I’m familiar with the plant in Logansport, Indiana, so let’s take a look.

Logansport, Indiana

I grew up in central Indiana, near Logansport. People I knew worked at the slaughterhouse in Logansport.

I don’t recall who owned the plant back then, but I do vividly remember the squalid working conditions. Most employees never lasted beyond their first shift. It was the one place someone could ALWAYS find a job because the heat, smell, death, noise, and packed working conditions were overwhelming, and they always needed workers. I hope things have improved since then.

Let’s just say that I can’t eat either hotdogs or bologna to this day, but this conversation isn’t about that.

As most people are now aware, those same close working conditions are fostering Covid outbreaks among workers in meat processing plants across the nation. Different states, cities, and companies are reacting with varying levels of alarm, testing, and remediation plans. I’m also not going to comment on that, given the associated politics, but what I am going to discuss is the map and associated cell phone traffic patterns.

pandemic tyson map

This satellite google map shows the Tyson plant itself, with the adjacent employee parking lot to the south, the trucking areas where the animals arrive and the processed meats leave, the retention ponds to deal with the fluids and waste, and the local roads. There’s also a train track leaving the facility.

I counted approximately 410 semi-trailers at the plant and adjacent, connected businesses in the photo, above. Each one of those semis, of course, will be arriving or leaving with cargo, traveling to and from other locations, as will the 2200 employees as they go home in Cass County and adjacent communities.

Pandemic logansport

The packing plant is on the outskirts of Logansport, near highways that conveniently connect it with other local communities. In other words, you don’t have to go through town to get to work. Being located away from town is necessary anyway, due to odors.

pandemic logansport rural

Many people from rural farms, nearby cities like Kokomo, Lafayette, Monticello, Rochester, Wabash, and Peru, along with residents of other small towns travel to Logansport daily to work in the plant.

When I lived there, many people didn’t work at the plant for long, just until they could get a better job, so they never moved closer. Or, their parents owned a farm. This is prime Hoosier farm country.

Often, workers at the plant were among the most economically disadvantaged. They lived paycheck to paycheck and worked for minimal wages in conditions that served as inspiration for many of us to continue our education so we could work someplace else. Anyplace else.

Yet, these people go to work every day, sometimes even when sick because they can’t afford not to. Trust me, they work very hard.

Tectonix Geo Data

The Logansport Tyson plant became a Covid hotspot when more than 900 of the 2200 employees, or more than 40%, tested positive in April. The plant reopened last week after being closed for cleaning for two weeks, a politically hot-potato topic in general that I’m also not discussing.

Tectonix Geo analyzed anonymized cell phone data from the plant facilities throughout March 2020, beginning at the first of the month.

pandemic tectonix tyson

The blue on these maps shows the dots representing cell phones that are transmitting location data as they connect with cell towers. This first map shows the cell phones in the Tyson facility on one day in early March.

pandemic tectonix tyson close

Now that you know the lay of the land, we can identify which dots represent specific areas.

pandemic tectonix tyson markup

At the top of the plant area, you can even see the row of blue that tracks to the row of parked semis in the aerial photo of the plant.

pandemic tyson dot

To put this in perspective, this tiny blue dot is the Tyson plant, shown in the Google images.

Pandemic tyson begin spread

Throughout the month, every few days, the Tectonix data shows the highlighted blue as the cell phones moved away from the plant. You can still see the plant as the brightest spot, of course, because that’s where people with those phones gathered every day for work.

The areas most commonly inhabited and travel locations, according to the blue lines and clusters, were in Logansport itself, and along the feeder highways.

pandemic tyson spread local

Next, we see adjacent communities light up. Lafayette, Kokomo, and Peru have a lot of people who work in that plant, driving back and forth. It’s about 25 miles to Kokomo, 20 to Peru, and 40 to Lafayette. Of course, lots of smaller communities are lit up too, like Delphi, half-way to Lafayette, and Monticello, 20 miles due west of the Tyson plant.

In the first few days, these blue pathways and clusters likely represent where employees live or visited in the local region.

pandemic tyson midwest spread

As time passed, the blue clusters and lines became more pronounced and spread further from the plant, each tiny point of light representing a cell phone traveling – at first primarily within the state of Indiana, but then further.

Given this data, it’s not surprising that Cass County has an infection rate higher than any other county in Indiana.

pandemic tyson region spread

The tiny blue dots are too small for us to see individually, but each one is a potentially Covid-exposed person as their travels take them throughout Indiana and into major metropolitan areas in other states and Canada. Look at Chicago, for instance. Indianapolis, the state capital, becomes blue too, as does Fort Wayne, both of which are travel and economic hubs to elsewhere.

The time-lapse video shows the blue web extending across the US and on into Canada.

pandemic tyson country spread

By the end of March, you can clearly see that all of Indiana is pretty much blue, meaning that people who were in that plant on that initial day in early March have traveled to all of those locations. For a location to literally “turn blue,” many, many people need to have visited that location for the cell tower to pick up those signals thousands of times.

The Midwest is heavily affected by just this one plant, and the tendrils reach into many other parts of the country, along with southern Canada. Some of these may be trucking routes whose drivers loaded at the Tyson plant, but many represent travel by production employees and perhaps a few visitors who were present in the plant that initial day in March when Tectonix took their first snapshot in time.

What probably isn’t represented here is air travel, especially outside the US. Air travel was on a decline increasingly in March anyway, and stay-at-home orders had already begun in many places. Indiana’s governor ordered Hoosiers to stay at home on March 23rd, limiting their activities to only essential travel. Food production is an essential activity, and the Tyson plant remained open at that time.

As I look at these maps, I’m reminded that this is ONLY the phones of less than 2200 people who were in the plant on one day in March. It doesn’t even begin to speak to the people they interacted with and exposed, who traveled as well.

That’s the purpose of contact tracing of Covid-positive people – to determine the identities of those exposed people.

The gravity and importance of this web of contact and exposure don’t become apparent until Covid visits a facility near you, or a family member, or maybe your neighbor who may be exposing you or exposing someone else at the local convenience store or gas station who will expose you. Then, suddenly, this is all critically important.

The Message

I’m a visual person. That old adage about a picture being worth 1000 words holds true for me.

My first thought was how much this looks like a cobweb. Then I thought of the world-wide-web and how electronically interconnected we are.

I remember initially hearing about 6 degrees of separation years ago and being surprised when I discovered several cases where it was true. Now, older, wiser, and a genealogist, I’m no longer surprised.

With Covid, it’s more like 2 degrees of separation, if that. If you don’t know someone with Covid, or who has died of Covid, I guarantee you, one of your friends does. Me, and probably others as well.

As a society, in our lifetimes, we’ve never dealt with a run-away pandemic before. A situation where our very high degree of mobility which facilitates physical connectedness threatens our very safety.

Those 900+ infected Tyson employees were contagious long before they knew they were ill – perhaps as long as two weeks – if they even became ill. Super spreaders, as we now call them, a Covid-created term.

Infectious but not ill, they went to work and about their business in the community, and clearly, outside of the community, along major corridors – at work, church, family gatherings, restaurants, eating, shopping, touching doors, gas pump handles and using public restrooms where uninfected people assuredly followed. Truck drivers, upon whom we depend for our food supply, among other things, drove cross-country, truck stop to truck stop, warehouse to warehouse, perhaps taking an invisible passenger along with them.

Social distancing guidelines are being relaxed in some places, and people are clearly sick and tired of them, that doesn’t mean those unwelcome precautions are any less necessary.

If you have doubts, just look at this Johns Hopkins COVID-19 map of confirmed cases by county for where you live and think about the map of the contact spread from that one Tyson plant in Cass County, Indiana.

pandemic johns hopkins cass county

It’s Not Over

Easing of restrictions doesn’t mean the danger is over. It’s not.

If you were at risk before, you’re still at risk now. Epidemiologists estimate that only 5% of Americans have been exposed in total. 95% of us are yet to be exposed. Think about that. That’s almost everyone.

Put bluntly, everyone is at risk. No exceptions. We don’t even know if previous infection conveys immunity. We are still one big social epidemiological experiment with the outcome still unknown. The global “we” will undoubtedly survive, but our personal outcomes and those of our loved ones may be a different story.

The line of Xs shows how societies survive pandemics.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The bold Xs, approximately 70%, get infected. The red Xs die. Yes, society as a whole, represented by the entire row of Xs, survives, but several individuals do not. Not only that, but many of the bold Xs, even though they live, are not unscathed and not entirely recovered. In other words, surviving is not necessarily equivalent to “getting well” and returning to life as before.

To date, 294,000 worldwide have died, with 83,807 deaths in the US, and those numbers are still rising at an alarming daily rate. In the US alone, that’s more than 28 times the number of people who died during 911.

Those red Xs representing 84,000 dead aren’t just Xs, or numbers, or dry percentages heard daily on the news, they are people who are someone’s beloved family member. And there will assuredly be more to follow, probably more than have already died.

We may be getting numb to bad news, but that doesn’t mean the news is better.

The POINT of social-distancing restrictions was to flatten the curve so that hospitals would not be overwhelmed all at once. In other words, so that people would get infected slowly, across time. A flattened curve and easing of restrictions just mean that now, there’s probably a hospital bed and maybe a ventilator available for you when you become a bold X, hoping not to become a red X.

The GOAL, at least my goal, is to be a boring non-bold black X, meaning to remain uninfected until we at least have a relatively successful treatment and, preferably, a vaccine. I don’t want to become infected, nor do I want to infect anyone who winds up being one of those people needing a hospital bed, a ventilator, or a body bag.

Some infected people are entirely asymptomatic or exhibit only slight symptoms, but others begin an uncontrolled spiral into death. There’s no telling in advance which you might be, and once begun, there’s no brakes or steering on that run-away train.

Prevention is much easier, albeit inconvenient.

Easing of restrictions does NOT mean Covid is gone and does NOT mean you won’t catch it.

We still don’t fully understand this disease, have any reliable treatments, nor a vaccine. Dr. Fauci stated yesterday that a 2020 vaccine is unlikely, so we’ll need to protect ourselves, and others, for some time to come. Protection and prevention need to become our new way of life – at least for the foreseeable future.

If you ever doubted how you and others potentially spread germs – and in this case, a deadly virus – look again at that blue spider web on the Tectronix map that was seeded by fewer than 2200 people in one place on the same day.

Your life or that of someone you don’t know, do know, or love may depend on internalizing the spiderweb message from that map.

This isn’t like the flu. Those who survive Covid are physically (not to mention economically) devastated.

However, there are still positive messages to be found amid the Covid-carnage, and I’d like to share two of my favorites with you.

Finding Our Way

Here’s a wonderfully inspirational story and beautiful video telling the story of a young couple who both contracted Covid. Both nearly died, barely escaping death, but both survived and were in rehab facilities because of the utter devastation Covid wreaked on their bodies.

Yes, I said a young couple. Covid-19 doesn’t just kill old people, as if that was any kind of justification for anything, anyway.

Yes, I know, I’m sick of social distancing too, desperately want to see my family and friends and have a haircut – but certainly not unhappy enough to risk lives – mine, those of people I love, or yours. Any inconvenience pales by comparison to the possible consequences.

By the way, I wrote the draft of this article on Mother’s Day afternoon, safely tucked away at home. Yes, I’m sad not to see my family, but oh-so-grateful that we are all being safe and that my family cares enough about me to keep me safe too.

Please, don’t take chances.

  • Distance – remain at home unless you really have to go someplace.
  • Do more genealogy.
  • Engage in things that bring you joy.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Wear a mask when you do need to go out in public.
  • Walk outside, away from others. Wave to others.
  • Stay out of crowds and away from people not taking proper precautions.

A Kindness Web

That blue web that we see on the map…it’s a web of warning today, prompted by pragmatic fear of this virus. But keep in mind that our human web of contact can also be a web of good, helping others in many ways. We don’t always need to see each other in person to do that. Failing any other act of kindness, the kindest thing we can do is to stay home.

Our ability to bestow kindness continues, and there are more people in need today than ever.

Donations, contributions, and porch-pickups or drop-offs work. Make an act of kindness and charity a part of your pandemic experience.

Your kindness, in whatever way you can, may make all the difference in the world and change someone’s story.

Telling the Story

Speaking of telling the story, I’d like to leave you with something quite uplifting and inspirational.

The Great Realisation: Hindsight 2020 is a short bedtime story told sometime in the future about the time of “the virus,” back in 2020, read to a little boy by his father. The storybook tells how “the virus” changed us, our world, and the future in which they live. I so want this to be our clarifying, unifying truth, the silver lining to this cloud. Please listen, here, after the obligatory ad, of course.

I promise, you’ll be glad you did.

Stay safe so we will all be here on the other side, whenever that really is, to tell our stories.

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: The BeforeTime and The AfterTime

Have you ever lived through a life-dividing event? Something where your life is truly divided unquestionably in half? The “before life” and the “after life,” pardon the very bad pun.

Let me give you an example. My life changed in an instant in 1993, when my former husband experienced a massive stroke. There was life before the stroke, and then there was life after the stroke. Everything changed in the blink of an eye, literally everything.

I won’t linger on this topic, but you assuredly get the idea.

Sometimes these events are absolute lines in the sand with a before and a very clear after. A car accident, perhaps, or a traumatic death that occurred suddenly.

And then, there is the other kind, like we’re living through now. It’s more like before, followed by a slow-rolling purgatory.

In my state, the first death from Covid-19 happened precisely a month ago today when Michigan had a total of 55 cases. Today, the confirmed Michigan cases approach 31,000 and the deaths, more than 3,237. On March 23rd, when we had 263 cases and 6 deaths, the Michigan governor issued a stay-at-home order – and it’s working because we see the curve begin to flatten, although we are a LONG way from out of the woods.

The stay-at-home order began less than a month ago, although I had already been self-isolating because of exposure to some very ill people at RootsTech. Other than when I’m traveling, I actually don’t go out much anyway. I work from home, but I’m telling you, life before the pandemic seems like a very, very long time ago – even for a homebody like me.

That former life existed back across that divide – sometime in the BeforeTime, which seems somehow disconnected from today.

Uncertainty

What’s making this more difficult, aside from the horrible devastation of Covid-19 itself, of course, is uncertainty:

  • Anxiety about who will contract the disease and who will die.
  • After-effects on those who get it, become very ill and survive.
  • Economic stress, including lost jobs, lack of insurance, medical bills, food insecurity for many, etc.
  • Mental health toll.
  • Testing, or lack thereof, for both active cases and antibodies. Concerns about immunity.
  • Responsibly lifting the stay-at-home restrictions so that we don’t experience a resurgence.
  • Ongoing risks before a vaccine is available.
  • When will a vaccine be developed, and will it be effective?

All of these things are ingredients dumped into the mother cauldron of worry called, “What Will the AfterTime Look Like?” Really, there is no going back to normal. Normal will have changed – we just don’t yet know how. Nor do we know when the AfterTime will arrive. As someone said this past week, “the most difficult part of this is the uncertainty.”

This experience has made me think about several things from an entirely different perspective. You might say I’m seeing with new eyes. Nothing like walking that mile in someone else’s moccasins.

I’m Now a Dog

Pandemic dog window.jpg

Never in my life have I been so excited about going for a car ride. Why, I even changed to my good sweatpants from my “other sweatpants,” although I can barely tell the difference anymore. I’ve just about devolved to the point that I no longer care if my t-shirt matches by sweatpants or leggings.

I’m now excited about the prospect of taking the trash out too. When you’re feeling deprived, anything and everything seems like a good idea. “Here, hold my mask!”

Pandemic Jim mask.jpg

My husband has been dropping off finished face masks or shipping them where they need to go. Yes, this is an essential service – just ask the medical personnel who are the recipients.

Today, I told him I was going along (and staying in the car) because I just had to get out of the house and “blow the stink off,” as we used to say back in Indiana.

And then the memories began pouring back in.

Blowing the Stink Off

I realized that I take having a car for granted and driving as well.

pandemic car ride.jpg

When I was growing up, we owned a car, and of course, my mother drove. She was a single mom and there was no choice in the matter. However, many of my friend’s families only had one car, and Dad got dibs because he’s the one who went to work every day. More mothers didn’t work, then, than did.

Our neighbor lady didn’t drive at all. When she needed to go someplace, her husband drove when he got darned good and ready. Eventually, her kids learned to drive and they took her when the family car was available.

That old joke about Sunday drivers was rooted in reality.

“Blowing the stink off” was just our way of saying we need to go for a ride, not to do an errand, but because we’d been cooped up in the house for at least a week – or maybe most of the winter, also known as “cabin fever.”.

More often than not, we rolled the windows down, let the wind blow through our hair – and on a good day, we stopped at the drive-in and got an icy cold Rootbeer. If all we could afford was the ride, that was fine too.

Today, my husband and I had a picnic in our car in a parking lot, after our errand. Living large, I’m telling you! And you know what? It was WONDERFUL!!!

I had my nose pressed up against the window on the way home and tried not to drool down the window.😊

He wouldn’t let me stick my head out and pant.

Shut-Ins

Hey, let me out!!!

Pandemic dog window sad.jpg

The progression of life at that time in rural Indiana was that as one aged, assuming the grim reaper didn’t visit suddenly, a person would slow down, stop doing as much and eventually stop driving. As their health deteriorated, they became what was known as a “shut-in.”

That term wasn’t used derogatorily, just descriptively.

At the little crossroads country church we attended, the preacher would record the sermon on a cassette tape for each shut-in member. The congregation dutifully bought several recorders, and they would be lined up in front of the podium as the preacher preached and the choir sang.

The church ladies, including Mom, would then take the tapes and recorders to the homes of the “shut-ins” so they could hear the sermon.

Of course, Mom always took something else too, usually food, and always helped out and visited when she dropped off and picked up the tape and recorder on Friday or Saturday so the next Sunday’s sermon could be recorded.

I realized a few years ago that the reason Mom would not give up her incredibly expensive Avon routes until she no longer had a choice, more than 25 years after she retired from her job as a bookkeeper, was because Avon wasn’t a job to make money, although that’s what she tried to convince us of. Her Avon routes were her mission for shut-ins. That’s also why the routes were so unprofitable. You can’t continue to drive to visit people who either ordered nothing (because they couldn’t) or small things like Chapstick, week after week, taking things to them, and expect to make any money. Avon was an excuse to walk up to someone’s door and knock.

Mom provided her customers far more than Avon, and they gave her life purpose too. Often, she mixed church tape delivery with Avon. Eventually, her Avon and work with the elderly and needy simply became a big blur. We were always doing something with or for someone. That’s just how we lived our lives.

Eventually, other shut-ins who weren’t church members began to ask for tapes. The congregation was thrilled, spreading the gospel and all, until one woman finally admitted, when asked what she thought about something specific that the preacher had said, that what she really wanted was the visit, twice a week, because that’s the only time she really saw or talked to anyone.

Imagine that being your destiny – not for another week or month, or even a few months – but the rest of your life. Unlike now, for us, there was no prayer of it ever getting better.

I have a new appreciation for shut-ins and their plight – after only a month. A call once a week might be a slight bother to you, but it could well be the highlight of someone else’s entire week. Does someone seem to talk and talk, which is why you don’t want to call? That’s a sure sign of loneliness. I often put off calling Mom because I knew it would take an hour, and now I really regret that.

This is a good opportunity to coordinate Skype or Zoom meetings and involve other family members too. They will love you for it.

Jail

I know this seems like an odd topic, but hear me out.

pandemic jail.jpg

I have ancestors who spent time in jail – and they may have deserved their sentence. Of course, incarceration has three aspects; deterrence, punishment and depending on the crime, protecting society from the convict.

In my case, based on Covid-19 isolating, deterrence would be quite enough. However, 30 days in jail would cure me of whatever it was that put me there – guaranteed.

I now have a new appreciation for what those ancestors experienced, regardless of why they were spending time in jail. I also understand why solitary is so incredibly cruel.

Inmates and staff members are terrified of contracting Covid-19 across the nation because social distancing, wipes, and hand washing is simply not possible in that environment. College kids got sent home, and schools have closed, but there’s no place for inmates to go and no way for them to protect themselves. You may have little sympathy, but incarceration is not supposed to be a death sentence, at least not by accident.

While we may not think of it this way, if jails and prisons become a hotspot, they can and will infect others in the outside population.

Soldiers

pandemic sub.jpg

Not much has been said about the military, probably for security reasons. Still, social distancing in the military, especially in close quarters like barracks, submarines, and on various assignments simply isn’t possible.

Not only are our military personnel already risking their lives, now they have the added onus of Covid-19 and attempting to keep themselves safe from an invisible enemy to contend with too.

pandemic 1918.jpg

My Dad survived the 1918 flu pandemic in the Army, which was nothing short of a miracle. Many didn’t. His letters to his sweetheart said that he thought sure he was dying.

I already had a great deal of respect for our soldiers and armed forces, and it just went up another notch. Know a soldier? Don’t let them be forgotten in all of this.

Animals

Because I seem to have become a dog, I now feel incredibly bad for all of the pets who are left alone at home all day, every day, and then we wonder why they are incredibly excited to see us. They chew out of frustration and boredom, jump on us when we FINALLY arrive home, too tired to play with them after they have spent their entire day waiting for us. We are their only companions.

pandemic dog inside window.jpg

This is incredibly difficult for social, pack animals like dogs – and some cats too. Those “naughty” dogs are then crated during the day so they will go to sleep and not destroy things, unable to even relieve themselves for hours on end. Can you last for an entire 8 or 9 hours, or more, without going to the bathroom? They have to soil themselves or “be bad” to do so – risking disappointing the only bright spot in their lives – their human.

I’m comparing my own circumstances to theirs, of course, but all they have for their entire life is us – and we have so much else.

We don’t mean to keep them in isolation – but now I’m realizing that the effect is pretty much the same if you’re a person of fur.

I’m to the point where I’m excited to see the mail delivery person too and a food delivery person, WOW!!!!

Empathy

What will the AfterTime look like? I don’t know, I genuinely don’t. I’m trying not to obsess too much because there’s nothing I can do about it right now – except stay home so that we can all be released from our Covid-jails sooner than later. Yes, like when the entire class had to stay inside if one kid misbehaved. Except now we’re adults, and it’s no easier to convince adults to all behave at the same time – even when faced with potential death – than it was to convince a roomful of rowdy grade-schoolers.

I must admit, I don’t have much patience with rule-breakers today – this isn’t fun for anyone, but most of us are just gritting our teeth and doing it. At least we know that this will end – and the sooner we all behave – the sooner we can all go outside for recess.

But I do and will have much more empathy going forward for anyone and any creature that is confined, jailed, or otherwise restrained – whether of their own volition or not. Of course, this doesn’t mean that children and animals should roam freely. It does mean that I’ll be more sensitive to the plight of others, even if they deserve to be where they are, like inmates, or we’re keeping family members safe in the most loving of ways, in assisted living facilities, for example.

Recalling my mother’s fear of “being put in a nursing home,” and how she fought tooth and nail when we removed her car because she was having multiple unexplained fender benders – I fully understand her terror in a very personal way. I can deal with anything for a while – but an unending “forever” facing isolation with no freedom would be quite another matter entirely. And that’s what Mom felt she was facing.

Perhaps, as a result of our own experiences going stir-crazy this past month, we can all improve those “most loving of ways” that we approach and interact with others in the AfterTime.

Maybe, just maybe, we can all be better and kinder, and something good will have emerged from our forced timeout and introspection.

pandemic paw in hand.jpg

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?

_____________________________________________________________

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