Pandemic Journal: Chaos

I didn’t want to write this article, because it’s tough, and sad, and awful. But, I would have wanted my ancestors to record those times too, maybe especially those times, so I am doing the same. Think of this as a letter from someone far away – in the past. You know the outcome when you’re reading this, but I don’t as I write it.

Dangerous Myths

Let me begin by saying that anyone who states any of the following is not only flat out wrong, they are a danger to everyone else:

  • Covid isn’t real (it is)
  • Covid is a hoax (just no)
  • Covid isn’t any worse than the flu (very wrong, here’s why)
  • Covid isn’t that bad (ask those dead people and their families, see here)
  • Covid is just going to go away (guess again)
  • Almost everyone recovers (nope, many are left debilitated)
  • Covid doesn’t affect children (tell that to my friend whose 6 -year-old is dead, see this article)
  • Masks are an attempt to take our rights away (think drunk-driving laws and seat belts)
  • Masks don’t work (wrong, view this)
  • Covid only kills “old people” or people “something is wrong with anyway” (this thinking horrifies me)

Not only is that last statement incorrect, but it’s also a horrible statement, all by itself.

Update – please note this compiled resource titled “You asked, we’re answering: Your top Coronavirus questions” for questions and answers about Covid, including sources.

And yes, those are actual quotes that I’ve heard SINCE my cousin was diagnosed in late July. Not months ago when no one knew much about this virus, this month, the month where we’ve crossed 5.6 million Covid cases in the US alone, the month where deaths have topped 174,000. Oops, that was yesterday. Today that number has grown by 1,113 to more than 175,000 and that total is assuredly significantly undercounted.

That’s the size of Pembroke Pines, Florida, Salem, Oregon, the state capital, Oceanside, California, Newport News, Virginia or Providence, Rhode, Island, another state capital. There are many smaller cities, including 8 more state capitals. Check it out here.

If a bomb had dropped and annihilated every single resident of one of these cities, the entire country would be in mourning and everybody would be doing everything possible to help. But there is no collective effort to do anything as simple as even wearing a mask to eradicate this preventible Covid-bomb.

If anyone came across a car flipped upside down in a lake with someone trapped inside, and all they had to do was put on a mask and the trapped person would magically be levitated out of the car, with no risk whatsoever to the mask-wearer, every decent person would be donning that mask immediately. They would be lauded as a hero, yet every single one of the 175,000 deaths that have occurred since spring is the direct result of someone ELSE not taking appropriate precautions.

Our personal safety is directly connected to the actions of the unknown people around us – unless somehow we can manage to stay home, contact-free entirely for the duration. Click either image above or below to enlarge.

Now the bad news – we’re on track to cross 300,000 deaths by Thanksgiving.

Those predicted death numbers may be LOW, depending on what happens between now and then. Best case, with universal mask-wearing beginning now, that total would “only” grow to a quarter million. Another 75,000 dead souls, families suffering, and that’s the best case.

If you click the above image to enlarge, look at “mandates easing” where the death toll is north of 540,000. Keep in mind, schools have just opened, in-person in many places. You can’t eat in a restaurant or gather in groups, but hundreds of kids can be together without masks all day. Talk about an infection vector for the entire community. What is wrong with this picture?

You could be one of those deaths, or someone you love, including children.

Even the kids understand, at least some of them. The headline of the student newspaper, the Observer, from ill-prepared Notre Dame University reads, “Don’t make us write obituaries.”

The US has more than a quarter of the deaths worldwide, yet we only have 4.25% of the world population.

How can anyone read these numbers and not realize there’s something TERRIBLY wrong here and that Covid is excruciatingly real.

If I sound outraged, I am. Frankly, I’m furious. Furious about the needless suffering and deaths of all the people I’ve already told you about in my past pandemic journal articles. Now, for my friend’s brother that died 4 days ago, and no, he was not co-morbid and was only 44. There was nothing “wrong” with him. Outraged about the unnecessary pain being experienced across this country.

And, for my cousin and his family.

My Cousin’s Story

I’m sharing my cousin’s story, disguised to obfuscate his identity. His identity doesn’t matter, because his story is the exact same story of thousands and thousands of other people. Multiply this by 175,000 plus another thousand or so people added every single day.

Not everyone who becomes ill with Covid dies, but 175,000+ people have been mowed down one-by-one by the Covid-monster, and this is their story too – and that of their families and friends. Not to mention all of those undercounted and who died later of complications. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the actual count is double or more.

Many who become very ill with Covid and don’t perish, don’t fully recover either. We’re only just learning the extent of the after-affects because Covid hasn’t even been with us a year. Yet it has ruined countless lives across the globe and is no place near finished.

I’m calling my cousin “Bob,” just for purposes of reference. I met Bob through genealogy, just like I’ve met so many of my dear cousins. My immediate family is very small, and I’ve been very blessed over the years to make connections with many cousins with whom I’ve forged long-lasting relationships. If you are thinking, “well, at least this wasn’t someone close to her,” you’d be wrong. When you have a small family, others, if you’re lucky, become your family-of-heart.

Bob and I researched our common genealogical line together, sharing frustrations and victories. He looked forward to the day when he could retire and spend more time on genealogy research. We planned our next avenue of attack.

Bob’s is in his early 50s. In fact, I think he “celebrated” his birthday while in a Covid coma, in the hospital on a vent. Happy Birthday Bob.

Bob was fortunate because, in his profession, he could work from home. He did and always wore a mask when he absolutely had to go out. He even ordered his groceries and wiped them down.

Bob lived in a city that became a Covid hotspot this summer. So much for the virus being destroyed by heat. He became even more cautious. Covid got him anyway.

His Facebook profile photo shows Bob wearing a mask, setting a good example, and he encouraged others to wear masks too. He washed his hands, often, and was sad that he couldn’t see family members. Bob lived alone. His children had fledged before Covid.

Just 42 long days ago, Bob decided to attend a family birthday party. It was inside, but he told me that everyone had been distancing from others, washing hands, and wearing masks. He was missing his family terribly and wanted to go.

I know how he felt, because those of us who have been the MOST cooped up are feeling the effects the most profoundly. You look at these opportunities and wonder, if you don’t attend, if you’ll ever get another opportunity. Someone there could die, including you. You’re squandering the days of your life missing out when others get to have fun, laugh, and you’re alone, in isolation. Stuck at home. Without your family. Looking at pictures of everyone else enjoying themselves. And most of the time, nothing bad happens, which of course makes you feel like it’s safer than it is. I mean, what are the chances, right?

No wonder depression is rampant and alcohol purchases are up 25%.

With Covid, you only get to be wrong once and other people are contagious long before they have any idea they have it.

Bob was exceedingly grateful for Facebook, social media and smartphones so he could connect with people, especially his kids – and talked about how difficult quarantine was.

He especially loved dogs and cats and enjoyed walking outside in the open where he could see other people’s dogs, although he didn’t ask to pet them anymore because that makes distancing awkward and difficult.

As it would turn out, Bob was “safe” at home, not “stuck at home,” although that’s certainly how it feels some days – especially when you’re watching other people engaging in the activities you want to do.

Bob attended that party. He told me a few days later that everyone there, EXCEPT ONE PERSON, wore a mask.

EXCEPT ONE PERSON

Two days later, Bob and I were chattering, exchanging our favorite memories of John Lewis who had passed away. John inspired Bob who told me that John “never bowed,” inspired him to do better, be better, be courageous, and to stand up for what is right. His favorite photo of John was walking with children at Comic-Con, lighting the way for a future generation.

The next day, Bob asked if anyone knew where there was a rapid Covid testing location, couching the question as “asking for a friend.” Queue up nervous laughter. No one wanted to be nosey and ask, but rest assured, every one of us wanted to know.

Bob took every opportunity to educate positively, and Covid was no exception.

Bob obviously found a Covid testing location, because two days later, just 6 or 7 days after the party, he posted that he had tested positive, then explained that his symptoms began with a cough but no fever, so he thought it was just bronchitis. Then, the rest of the symptoms followed, one-by-one, including a few non-standard symptoms like diarrhea and nausea. The fever seemed to be the LAST traditional symptom to develop.

Surely, he thought, he couldn’t have Covid. Everyone except one person wore masks and they distanced as best they could inside. And it was only once, one event. He had only taken one slight chance.

Bob’s Facebook feed was filled with well-wishers, of course, but also of some people who either currently had Covid or had had Covid recently, offering advice. Others were, themselves, waiting for test results.

I suspect if you posted on your Facebook page and asked how many have had Covid, you’d be quite surprised. I personally know several. Many people don’t talk about it, because there is some level of social stigma attached. ESPECIALLY if they haven’t been wearing a mask or have been out-and-about without distancing – because no one likes to hear “I told you so,” even if it’s unspoken.

Bob and I messaged and emailed back and forth. We discussed the situation in a couple of exchanges, then…..silence.

SILENCE

Do you have any idea how difficult silence is to endure when you know that someone you care about has Covid?

You have no idea how you’re going to find out what is going on. All you can do is wait, and attempt patience.

Bob’s friends and family who live distantly, me included, began posting encouraging but not nosey notes of encouragement on his timeline.

We all knew something was very wrong, because silence is not like Bob. Neither are short postings. Bob is never at a loss for words.

Three days later, one sentence. “I’m in the hospital.”

A family member posted a few hours later that he was stable. Thank goodness.

Exhale.

The next day, they started Bob on Remdesivir, but two days later, one word from Bob on his Facebook feed.

“ICU”

A few hours later, Bob posted that he was feeling better, and again another few hours later, just a couple words.

I heaved a huge sigh of relief, because although he was in ICU, he was obviously on the mend and improving. That’s the purpose of the ICU, but he was clearly very ill.

The next day, Bob posted a very odd message that he was listening to a specific song. When I listened to the lyrics, I wondered if he was trying to tell us something. I was relieved that he was finding comfort in music, and that was allowed in ICU. I hoped he had a phone charger and earbuds.

And then, for 6 days, there was nothing at all.

Not. One. Peep.

I know Bob’s family had to be going through living hell, so I wasn’t about to bother them. Not only was he obviously critical, but they couldn’t be with him. Bob was even more “alone” than he had ever been at home, and in a much worse way.

I remember vividly when my former husband had a massive stroke at age 47. He had been fine. There was nothing wrong with him until our world fell apart – much like Covid.

Then, a few days later, another stroke, then blood clots, DVTs that moved into pulmonary embolisms. Every minute of every hour of every day could be his last – and that went on for days, weeks and then months. Death by inches. The difference is that we knew he wasn’t contagious AND I was sleeping in the chair in his hospital room for much of the time.

That period of time was so horrific that I literally came away with what could probably be considered PTSD. It affected other family members in different ways, none of them good, literally tearing the family and family members into shreds.

Bob’s family, I’m sure, is experiencing even more extreme stress, watching him deteriorate from a distance with a cascading series of critical issues – any one of which could take his life – unable to comfort or touch him.

Bob’s last message was 22 days ago.

He was put on a vent and remains in a medically-induced coma.

Every few days, a family member updates the rest of us.

Updates

First, I’m extremely grateful for any news, because otherwise all I would be able to do is google daily for an obituary. How morbid is that?

Bob’s family has been riding an emotional roller coaster. They are living in the first ring of hell, closest to the fire. Been there, done that and no one escapes unscathed. The pain never abates or stops.

I remember all too well: “Oh, we have improvement. He’s getting better.” Only to be followed by: “Can you step into the consultation room please.” That room should just have been labeled the “bad news” room because, trust me, good news was not conveyed there. Just those words struck terror into your heart. And if the doctor called your phone, it was critical. I remember my phone ringing once while I was in line in the hospital cafeteria, just minutes after I had left my husband’s bedside. I just left everything where it was and literally ran.

For days, I’ve checked for information about Bob the last thing at night before I go to sleep, first thing in the morning before I get out of bed, and roughly every hour in-between. It’s emotionally exhausting, and I’m no place close to the first ring of hell where his family is living right now.

I can’t even make him a care quilt, because he obviously can’t have anything in Covid ICU, and even if he could, he couldn’t take it home with him for fear of exposing others.

Six days after the final message from Bob, his kidneys failed. Bedside surgical dialysis, because on a vent, he can’t go to the dialysis center.

Still hoping for a full recovery.

I couldn’t help but think to myself that I, at age 38, was entirely unprepared to deal with the sudden onslaught of medical terminology and rapid-fire leaning that had to occur in order to advocate for my husband. Bob’s poor kids, much younger than I was at the time, must be struggling mightily. My heart goes out to them. I wish I could help.

Then, more days of silence.

On my end of the world, my cat, Phoenix, our rescued fur-child died, my friend’s brother died of Covid, and two close family members are in need of immediate care quilts which means they may need other types of assistance as well. The nastiness on social media has ramped up. I have friends whose homes are threatened by wildfires in California and I don’t even want to talk about the stress surrounding my husband’s job. Things are coming a bit unraveled. Together, we’re managing. Thank Heavens the flowers are blooming and I can walk outside in the yard.

chaos glads

A rogue gladiola has popped up, somehow. Could it be a wink from Dad on the other side that somehow, things are going to be alright? I want to believe that.

Still Hopeful

I check many times every day for news about Bob and try to remain positive.

Seven days later, a family member says that Bob’s kidneys are improved, thank God, BUT now he has blood clots and a blood infection. He’s still on the vent and in a coma.

The family is discouraged but still hopeful for a full recovery. Imagine the story Bob’s going to hear about what happened during that coma when he is revived.

By the time we finally received the blood clot news, Bob had been on a vent for 13 days. All I can say is that I hope his brain is actually silenced and asleep and he’s not suffering in a “closed in” way.

More silence, then hopeful news. Bob’s oxygen levels had improved and so had the blood infection. Hurray!!!!

Permission to be hopeful. Bob was headed in the right direction.

Roller Coaster

But then, two days later, the roller coaster plunged again. Bob has a new and different type of blood infection, AND the blood clot in his leg moved to his lungs which means it’s a pulmonary embolism.

I lived through this with my husband. Pulmonary embolisms can be fatal without the complications of Covid. My husband said it was the worst pain he had ever experienced in his life. He begged to die. Maybe the coma is a good thing for Bob right now.

Bob’s family said they would update us as soon as they had something to report.

That was 4 days ago – 98 hours and counting.

Radio Silence

I know his family members are suffering terribly. It must be exceedingly difficult for them to post updates when the last thing they feel like doing is posting to social media. Sometimes reducing things to words is more than the mind can bear, especially when you’re trying to remain positive, but the news isn’t. Not to mention they may not be ready for a deluge of communications.

Grieving, especially real-time in public, is difficult at best and something most of us have little experience with. No one wants that baptism-by-fire experience either.

I’m sure they are completely overwhelmed. I can only hope they have some sort of support.

I pray that no news means Bob hasn’t passed and that he is on the road to recovery. That’s all I can do. I feel entirely helpless. Perhaps telling his story will help even just one person avoid Covid.

As for me, I’ve had a headache for more than a week now, and I’m still checking for news every hour or so. Compared to the utter hell and agony that his family is living through, my experience is nothing. I’m sure it’s just cumulative stress because, well, you know, 2020.

Checking…

Waiting…

Checking…

Waiting…

Bottom Line: Wear the Mask, Stay Home, Wash Your Hands

Here’s the bottom line:

chaos wear the mask.png

  • Wear the mask
  • Stay home or stay distant
  • Wash your hands

I did not ask Bob if the person at the party who did not wear a mask had tested Covid-positive. They could never have tested if they were asymptomatic and never knew they were spreading death and misery at a level beyond anyone’s imagination.

Does whoever gave Covid to Bob know that they are responsible for his illness and perhaps his death? Probably not.

It’s possible that Bob picked the virus up elsewhere, NOT at the party. We have community spread throughout the US now. Maybe getting gas or who knows. However, if everyone had worn a mask and isolated, all at once, in the spring, and weren’t taking unnecessary chances, we’d have wrestled this viral scourge to the ground months ago and it would not be burning through our population like a wildfire consuming dry timber.

Stay safe at home. If you don’t need to expose yourself, don’t. Just don’t. If you could ask Bob if any outing is worth the price he’s paying – I know what his answer would be and so do you.

The devastation on Bob’s life, assuming he lives, may include life-long disability.

If Bob passes away, his hospital bills will decimate his estate.

If he lives, those bills may wipe out his retirement nest-egg, if they don’t force him into outright bankruptcy. My husband’s hospital bill was in the millions. Thankfully, insurance paid most of it, but it took me years to pay the balance even AFTER I used all the retirement funds.

If anyone seriously doesn’t know someone who has had a severe case of Covid, or a family who has suffered through this, PLEASE send this article to them. Although, at this point, I’m beginning to think that people who oppose wearing masks and continue spouting talking-points that justify their anti-mask and anti-distancing positions are engaged in willful ignorance.

Think about all of those 175,000+ people who have died. Every single one of those families is going through this or some similar experience. These deaths are torturous, not just for the victim, but for their family and friends too.

Some people who “recover” don’t completely recover, even though they don’t die.

The toll a Covid illness takes isn’t just on the patient, but radiates like ripples in a pond, affecting their immediate and distant family, ripping a hole in the stability of their family fabric, inflicting trauma that will never heal. Those ripples spread further into the community and society as well, through networks of friends and colleagues. While every single family is individually devastated, with their own hell-version of this story, the tentacles reach throughout our society, destabilizing everything from family units to the economy.

And you want to know what’s worse – we are still NOT in control of this virus.

We’ll have another 175,000 deaths before long unless we change our approach. We’re headed into winter when people are back inside, flu season hits and schools are reconvening in person now.

When I titled this article “Chaos,” I was referring not just to what is happening to my cousin’s family and friends, but to the pit of hell inferno and unrelenting sorrow that the rest of us collectively are staring into if we don’t do something different, and quickly.

The best predictor of future performance is what happened in the past – and 175,000 deaths over 6 months is a grim prediction. There’s still time to change our collective behavior, but we absolutely must if we want to slow and stop this raging wildfire. There is no miracle cure. The only thing that can save us – is us.

Slow Dancing In A Burning Room

It’s not a silly little moment
It’s not the storm before the calm
This is the deep and dyin’ breath of
This love we’ve been workin’ on

We’re goin’ down
And you can see it too
We’re goin’ down
And you know that we’re doomed
My dear
We’re slow dancing in a burnin’ room

Don’t you think we outta know by now?
Don’t you think we shoulda learned somehow?

chaos just wear it.png

Epilog

August 25th – My cousin, Bob, died today, a month to the day after he was diagnosed and 28 days after being admitted to ICU. Yesterday, just four hours before he died, his family posted that while he still had bacterial pneumonia and blood clots, that his lungs were improving. Then, he was gone. His body just couldn’t fight anymore.

This monster took him, but not with out the assistance of the legions of people who refuse to wear masks. They killed him just as assuredly as if someone had driven drunk and hit him. The difference being that because we can’t trace this virus back to the string of people who transmitted it, the responsible parties can glibly live their own lives, in full denial of the havoc, wake of destruction and grief that they are leaving behind.

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: 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?

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