Feeling a little more somber today. Heard from another friend of mine, a doctor. She read yesterday’s blog post but stopped when she got to the part about the joys of working from home. She admitted it was because she felt a little jealous.
This news gave me pause. I felt sheepish, ashamed, because let’s face it: she doesn’t have that luxury. No one in the medical industry has that luxury today or in the foreseeable future. This particular friend of mine has gone through two separate instances of chemo from ovarian cancer, and yet here she is on the front lines of the pandemic, selflessly serving others.
She shared how she sees many older patients in her practice, some of whom look forward to their doctor appointment because it’s the only social interaction they get all day, or even most days.
If you’re struggling with these new restrictions, think of the elderly people in your life. Think of the doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, other hospital, hospice, and elder care workers. Think of the daycare workers who are working with kids while juggling the risks and restrictions placed on them, every day let alone today. There are all kinds of people to think about, to thank.
We need to support one another, however we can.
In another one of those incredible, perspective-inducing memes:
Your grandparents were called to war. You’re being asked to sit on your couch. You can do this.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine asked people to hang the American flag as a sign of solidarity, presumably because many of us might not have an Ohio flag, cool as it is with its pennant shape. The previous owners of our home had a flag pole in the yard but it was broken and became rusty so we pitched it several years ago. I will have to make an effort to hang our US flag somewhere on our house this weekend.
In today’s press conference Lt. Governor John Husted reminded us that tough times reveal our character. He spoke of a grocery store fight that broke out between two customers over toilet paper. Toilet paper. As much as I’ve joked about it, it’s not worth fighting with a fellow citizen.
Contrast that story with the one about a state employee, a technical guy who worked tirelessly to launch the state’s coronavirus unemployment benefits web page even while a close family member was dying. He chose a selfless act of service for his fellow citizens in a time of crisis over personal tragedy.
I sit in my house today wondering if my throat feels funny, like my glands are starting to swell. Maybe my imagination is running wild. It worries me. I realize I’ve been in a happy little bubble, but I really need to brace myself in case it bursts in the coming days.
This last week, my coworkers have all reliably shown up for work on conference calls like I confidently assumed they would, but it hit me: we will start hearing stories about people who are falling ill. People we know. The rumor mill is running with the name of an infected high school student in our community of roughly 27,000 people. Will it get more real when we hear that news first-hand from someone?
Is it more real now that the first Ohioan has passed from this virus? The numbers in Ohio and the US are really starting to jump. I’m not surprised at the numbers as we’ve been warned they would, and warned that we are just beginning this upward slope.
What if yesterday was Week One of Eight? What if it is Week One of much longer?
We are hearing reports that China and South Korea are slowly beginning to return to normal, but their societies are quite different than ours. I’m not an economist but I know America increasingly runs a small business and gig economy. How resilient are those to a pandemic? A few of my learned business friends are quite concerned about the long-term economic devastation about to hit America if this drags on longer-term.
One of those people is my best friend from college, Greg. I dreamt about him the night before, so I took it as a sign to Facetime him last night. We caught up for the first time after several months and I didn’t care that my face was sans make-up. He is hunkered down in his Manhattan apartment with his new fiancé and their two cats.
They pretty much can’t leave, and they haven’t for two weeks now. It’s impossible to step outside in New York and be six feet apart from people. He shared how the EMTs came the day before to take away his neighbor who couldn’t breathe.
He’s thinking through the logistics of packing up their lives and cats and traveling to Ohio to live with his elderly mom in the country for a few months until New Yorkers get the all clear. He figures he’ll be there to help his mom should she have a medical emergency, fix things around her house, and step out for fresh air by walking in the woods. He has the financial luxury to take a couple of months off from his work.
We talked daily in college, mostly to get through honors accounting homework and deal with our tough, formidable professor together, but just as often our talks turned to life and the future. Greg always called me “dear” and could finish my sentences for me, but despite all that, we always agreed to politely disagree about money.
Greg thinks we’re headed to a great depression of monumental proportions. I know exactly what kind of dominos need to fall for that to happen, and part of me knows he’s right about that, but for now I’m still hanging onto hope. If China and South Korea can emerge from this, maybe we can too. There will be casualties of the real and metaphoric kind, but I won’t mourn that yet. That time will come but not now.
Speaking of being hunkered down, I see many references to people reflecting on the dignity of Anne Frank, hiding in a 450 square foot space with her four other family members for two entire years, trying to avoid being heard and captured.
Perspective. We can do hard things.
Ryun and I need to do a better job of explaining that to our kids. Believe it or not, we finally sat down for family dinner last night and it wasn’t quite the Norman Rockwell moment we would have liked. Our kids had nearly a full week of free-for-all without curfews or much in the way of chores so the mere thought of gathering at the same time daily for – egads – a meal together was a crimp on their freedom.
I wanted to use the backside of my hand on each of them. I didn’t. I whipped out the old, “in my day we didn’t have the luxuries you did…” diatribe but it rang hollow. Eye rolls in every direction.
It was time to appeal to a higher good within them.
In between bites of spaghetti, they learned that for the rest of their lives, they will be asked, “What did you do during the pandemic?” and we explained we wanted them to be proud of their answer. Ryun and I suggested enrichment activities that – get this – each of them enjoys.
I may as well have told them the internet was dead. Or asked them to amputate an arm and return their electronic devices to owner. Not a proud parent moment. We have some work to do at Louie Lodge.
In closing, I leave you with this today, author unknown but full of grace.
Not as much today….
The World Health Organization says the incubation period for COVID-19 is 1-14 days with symptoms appearing most commonly after five days. Today marks seven days at home for us and we are healthy. Still healthy!
Granted, my husband Ryun has been out a few times for one small church obligation, a well visit, and maybe two grocery shopping trips, sometimes with my oldest son. I know this resets their clock as it does ours, but still, seven days at home symptom free is something to cheer. We can do this.
Ryun talks to his 82-year-old mom every day but that’s really nothing new. They’ve been doing that for as long as I’ve known him, going on 20 years now. Maydel thinks this whole coronavirus thing is overblown. An avid Fox fan, her perspective is no big surprise. I don’t want a cavalier attitude to be her demise given how she’s the only grandparent my kids will ever know but I’m coming to terms with what might happen.
Granted, she’s in decent health and looks absolutely incredible for her age. My mother-in-law is relatively fit and mentally sharp with a couple of health incidents here and there but not really any chronic illness other than diabetes. She still lives in her ranch home and shovels her own Utah snow. She chased an intruder who entered through the dog door out of her house not that long ago, so she’s quite the trooper. She loves to socialize, eat out, and exercise at Curves but now she’s cut all of that out and it will take its toll. Still, so far so good.
One of my coworkers shared that we are among only 29% of Americans who are fortunate enough to work at home. Wow. We’ve been holding video conference calls for work and it’s been fun to see everyone in their tshirts, no make-up, and ponytails with kids coming in and out of the frame and dogs barking.
I love the LIFE in all of that. I also love that we work for a company that encourages us to know and care about each other’s lives outside of work, so it wasn’t a surprise to me at all to hear or see one coworker with her college-age daughter at home, another colleague with her twins under one year, and some others who have three or four kids at home.
One of my coworkers – who shall remain nameless – lamented the pace by which they are blowing through their toilet paper stash, so we spent a little time brainstorming new strategies. Maybe each person is allocated a roll whereby they Sharpie their initials on the edge. No more rolls are stocked in the bathroom. If you gotta go, you check in with mom first with your allocated roll and that might be incentive for you to be thrifty, shall we say.
I told my coworker that all sorts of ingenious life hacks might come of our situation. We may be forced to create a makeshift bidet with a turkey baster and otherwise use washcloths. Of course, you’d need to Sharpie the ball on the baster to clearly label its new purpose. Talk about crossing the Rubicon….
I know. I’ve ruined turkey basters for you. I apologize to all the kitchen wizards out there.
Now that a full week has gone by, I am finally itching to get outside to do something other than take the pupster out for potty patrol. But in the meantime, I’m playing classical and spa music in the home office when I don’t otherwise have conference calls and it’s kinda nice.
However, I check CNN.com throughout the day and sometimes watch videos to catch up on the news. If I hear Johnny Carson say, “sis-boom-bah” one more time before a video plays…grrr.
Is it just me or do you watch TV shows where people are congregating, shaking hands and hugging and you want to shout at the TV, “Don’t do it!!!”? I mean, Progressive came out with the “perfect high five” commercial and I want smear sanitizer on the TV. Maybe they pulled that one off the air. Smart move.
Today I used up the last square on a roll of toilet paper in the powder room on the main floor and it hit me: we should number the rolls remaining in the house and keep a tally on the dry erase board in the kitchen, like our own little Louie Lodge Doomsday Clock. And then gather solemnly to play taps when another one spins, freely, its original mission in life complete.
After tossing the empty roll in the trash, I sang the first verse from Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” while washing my hands, followed by a re-creation of the dancing in the jail scene of The Replacements. Alternatively, I’ve heard we should try a verse of “Old MacDonald”, “Happy Birthday”, or “The Stars and Stripes Forever” (we are a music family, after all), or even better, the Lord’s Prayer (now that’s a good one). This reminds me, I really do need to listen to Rita Wilson’s quarantine playlist on Spotify.
After I wrapped up work for the day, my husband Ryun, the extrovert, asked me if I was itching to be out among people. Me, the introvert? Dude, I’ve been practicing for this moment my whole life. True, I’ll be itching for a road trip when this is all over, but honestly, I feel a tiny bit more renewed each day I spend it in my Louie Lodge cocoon.
NOW would have been the time to binge watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. And uh, no thanks, Netflix. Are you seriously streaming Outbreak? Groan.
It’s really kinda hard to think this isn’t the end of times when you learn there was a 5.7 earthquake in Salt Lake City earlier today. That happens to be home for my mother-in-law. (She’s ok, the house is ok…) I mean, really. The governor talked of counties releasing people from jails. What’s next? The Cascadia fault line collapsing? Massive power outages? [God, if you’re listening….? That’s not a dare or anything, I promise.]
I do continue to catch Governor DeWine’s daily press conference. Major shout out to the sign language interpreters. The woman with glasses is fun to watch: she is a human emoji. Even better, my PC froze right when she was making this move that looked like she was casting a Harry Potter spell. The look on her face was priceless. She deserves an Emmy.
Can I tell you how nice it is that a soft, warm, snuggly, 1-year-old, puppy-sized Maltipoo named Zoe hangs out on my lap for part of the day while I work? And Zoe is Greek for “life” which is a lovely reminder these days?
My spirits remain high. Same with the kids. We’re all still healthy. Ryun is busy teaching his lessons. A few more parents and students took him up on online lessons. He doesn’t want to advertise more broadly than his existing student base, in solidarity with other musicians who might be hurting right now where gigs and schools are cancelled, and online lessons might be the only form of income they have.
Can I tell you I looooove how thoughtful he is about that sort of thing? He never ever wants to poach business from a fellow musician under normal circumstances and certainly not now.
On the topic of food…
Our fridge is packed to the gills but I’m trying to figure out whether a leprechaun bestowed it with vending machine capabilities because it magically produced a fresh, new gallon of milk I swear wasn’t there yesterday.
Ryun hid the brownies in the house because we’re tearing through them like they’re speed pills. He thinks I don’t know where they are. Now I’ve hid them in my tummy.
I miss Kind bars. They were all out of them at the stores. Thank God for the Girl Scout cookie supply chain. I may or may not stress-eat Samoas and Do-Si-Dos.
Heads will roll in this home, so help me God, if the lunchmeat in the fridge goes bad before we make a dent in it. Seriously. Hubby does the grocery shopping, but he also buys entirely too much food that can spoil simultaneously.
Speaking of grocery shopping, pro tip: see if your favorite store has an app or an option to “scan as you go”. Our store, Giant Eagle does. It’s GENIUS. Ryun scanned each item as he shopped, paid/checked out on his phone, had a store employee check his bag at the exit, and bypassed several incredibly long lines of people at each register on his way out the door. No wait. It will be neat to see the wealth of ingenuity that comes of these times.
This whole pandemic is no laughing matter but you gotta give props to the people who can joke at a time like this.
Mel Brooks and his son Max made a video about the importance of social distancing and it was perfect.
I swear I don’t have a fixation on Keith Richards, but I have to share this one:
And then there’s Betty White. I don’t know if she legit took that hit in the Snickers commercial a few years ago but she has GOT to survive this or I will cry.
Saw another great meme yesterday: we’ll see if the anti-vaxxers put up or shut up now!
One of my teacher friends shared a Facebook post that her children are engaging in the following enrichment activities: AP laundry and spring cleaning, honors dishwashing and yardwork.
And now for the macabre….don’t judge me. Don’t say I didn’t warn you either.
Ryun and I chatted again before bed last night and yeah, thoughts turned to what would happen if either of us died. He expressed his distaste for an open-casket service for himself. He’d rather be cremated but I had to explain, now that he’s converted to Orthodox Christianity, that they don’t permit cremation.
And the whole open casket viewing thing? I don’t even know….is that just an Ohio/western PA thing? Or a Catholic/Orthodox thing? The more exposure I get to other Christian faiths and wakes over the last few decades, it seems like nobody does that but us. Are open caskets passé? Are we that old school?
It’s important to remind you that he’s a musician and operates a percussion studio. He’s just as well known for being a classical timpanist as he is a jazz drum set player. We’ve got a lot of equipment: timpani, marimba, drum kits, xylophone, etc., mostly so he could practice his chops these many years.
As I laid beside him and thought about his wishes, the conversation got weird, totally my doing. Thank God he loves me.
“You know hon, I could always take the head off one of the timpani drums and bury you in there. For that matter, if you don’t behave, I’ll just stick you inside a bongo. Oh, I know! I’ll put you inside of a set of maracas. Maybe we’ll preserve your teeth and add them in for a little extra percussion,” as I wiggled in bed and pretended to shake an imaginary pair. We are a musical family, after all.
It was twisted. I’ll grant you that. I howled like a hyena while he shook his head at me and buried it in the pillow, “Aw, that’s just great.”
He approved this message.
Hang in there, folks!
What I’ve learned so far:
1. I touch my face constantly. Actually, that’s a lie. I have incredible self-awareness about my habit of face-touching.
2. People in this house drink a ridiculous amount of milk. We had three gallons two days ago. Now we’re down to our last half gallon. Under normal circumstances I would cheer that my kids drink milk. But now? I really don’t want anyone to step outside for it. They can eat dry cereal. We’ll send a single forager when we truly run out of necessary food and the way this kitchen and pantry are stocked, that could take a few days. Or weeks.
3. 15 people have signed up for online drum lessons which is not anywhere near my husband’s normal 40-student private teaching workload but it’s better than nothing and it’s way more than I thought! Today is the first day he’s giving it a go. Maybe he can open up his services across America for that matter.
4. My youngest cried because his favorite Nintendo game was somehow deleted off his Switch in attempts to upgrade it or apply a patch. Like Christmas day, every kid in America is likely downloading software from Nintendo and it’s crashing their servers. It’s the end of his world, you know.
5. My butt still really hurts from sitting on the newly assembled bar stool in my makeshift office after 1.5 days so I moved all my home computer equipment out of my real home office into the kitchen so my work equipment could move in. My home office doesn’t have a lot of desk space but at least the faux leather Ikea chair is comfy. I can’t imagine eight weeks with a bruised tailbone. I suspect that will be the least of my worries. It’s a lot louder on the main floor with the kids.
6. It’s St. Patrick’s Day. No parties and parades this year other than the line of cars at Cleveland Clinic waiting for COVID-19 testing. Ohio polls are closed per order of Dr. Acton in defiance of a judge’s order to remain open. I think the judge is wrong. I hate the idea of delaying our primary election, but these are not normal circumstances. I wore green today though – does that count? Then again, I’m on day three of the same outfit that wasn’t green on day one. LOL
7. My kids are just winging it now. I haven’t outlined “enrichment” activities for them, but I will be doing so over the next few days. I’m going to see if the ACT tutor we hired for our oldest can coach him over the phone since her schedule may have opened up. His certainly has. He’s pretty ticked that he doesn’t have the final quarter of the year to improve his GPA. Dude: we’ve been telling you about the significance of your GPA since 8th grade. You pick THIS QUARTER to pay attention?
8. Today we learned of the first person on the corporate campus of my employer who is presumed to test positive for COVID-19. By virtue of the fact that I was not emailed directly about this individual, they did not work on my floor, but I get around. We have a few thousand people on campus, and they hail from all over northeast Ohio, some driving up to 45-60 minutes to get to work. Today’s news was inevitable. HR will notify us if we’ve come into contact with someone who tests positive or is presumed to be.
9. I have no plans to wear makeup during the next eight weeks. I am fixing my hair because it’s short and I don’t need a reminder that I look like Keith Richards every time I look in the mirror. LOL Despite wearing the same clothes for the last three days, I am sporting fresh undies. The best is no bra. NO BRA for the next several weeks. Girls, can I get a hallelujah on that one?
10. No, I haven’t started that walking or yoga or tai chi routine. My husband started tai chi on Friday (“Hug the moon,” he coached me). I think that’s kinda cool.
11. Other than the normal kid fights, we’re doing ok. As we laid in bed last night, my husband admitted he is a little bit scared. I’m cool headed about it. I haven’t cried. I cry over everything but this? No tears. Not yet. I’m surprised I can fall asleep ok. Then again: no symptoms. I do feel like I should make quite a few phone calls though.
12. My youngest reminded me of his entrepreneurial and humanitarian tendencies, “Um, Evan S. and I at school heard that you can make, like, $500 million if you come up with the cure for the coronavirus so we’re going to use science and do it. If we split that 50/50,” long pause inserted for effect, “we both get $250 million so I’ll be able to pay for my own college.” My response? “Dude, if you discover the cure for the coronavirus, people will come to YOU for college.” LOL
13. Seriously, if you’re holed up in your house for an indefinite period, what are you going to do with this once-in-a-lifetime precious time of yours? Will you better yourself, connect with distant loved ones, tackle that home project you always said you would, or help the elderly and lonely in your own community? What do YOU plan to do? Even if you plan to rest – and that’s valid in its own right – what do you plan to do? I’d love to hear from you.
The home office is set up. I holed myself up in the basement away from the official office inside our home because 1) the kids are less likely to come talk to me here (I said less likely…believe me they have visited more than a few times already today!), and 2) the computer in the kitchen literally ran out of memory the day the WHO declared a pandemic so that leaves the iMac in the office available for the kids to use. I don’t think I’ll be making it to the Apple store anytime soon to remedy the iMac problem.
I bought myself a new barstool from Target, something I had been meaning to do for a while now. I really meant to buy a few of them for this long bar in our basement, part of a bigger effort to spruce up the downstairs after we replaced the carpet but I have been really slow to getting to it. And wouldn’t you know, the seat on this thing isn’t all that comfortable. I may need to come up with another solution here. I mean, I’ve got a lot of cushion on my own tush but sitting on this chair long term isn’t going to cut it.
It was otherwise a decently productive day. I was able to concentrate a bit more than last Friday when, seriously, a 1000 thoughts of every single kind were swirling in my head.
It sounds like we social distancing we are asked to do will last about eight weeks or so, until mid-May, and the tail end of the “curve” could hit in July or August if I’m to believe #45.
I tend to dismiss whatever words come out of the individual who currently occupies the White House. You may have discovered from earlier posts or simply knowing me that I’m not a fan of his before or certainly since this latest crisis. However I won’t dwell on him.
High praise is due to Governor Mike DeWine and his Director of the Ohio Department of Health, Dr. Amy Acton. Believe me, until about four years ago, I wouldn’t call myself political at all. The 2016 election changed that, and now I find myself in the unprecedented position of being more vocal than my husband, the political junkie. I can’t say that I had a lot of gripes with DeWine other than he’s Republican and I tend to vote/lean Democrat – and if I did have them, I am not recalling them at the moment – but he and his team are handling this whole event so very well, down to how he signals actions that he might take in a couple of days before he officially takes action such as closing the day care facilities in the state.
I like that he gets that their decisions will result in saved lives. I like that he is basing his decisions on science, and that he actually listens to the experts. And Acton? She explains things thoroughly, calmly, clearly, with analogies like I tend to do at work. It makes me smile to see Acton in action. (Yes, I went there. I said it!) I hope she is elevated to a role on a national level as we need her.
Part of me is a tiny bit wigged out that she is likely my age and a grandmother, but I won’t dwell on that for the moment. Bigger picture….looking at the bigger picture.
While I worked, the rest of the family did an initial wipe down and sanitizing of surfaces – doorknobs, light switches, handles, pulls, banisters, keyboards, phones, keys, mice, appliances, remotes. The kids are going to understand what is entailed in official spring cleaning at Louie Lodge before it’s all said and done.
If our state officials think that 40% of us Ohioans will get this virus, that means two of the five of us will. Or at the worst end of the statistics, 70% of us will get it, which means possibly four of the five of us. Maybe all of us. Maybe none of us. I explained that to two of our kids today. I also explained that if any one of us ends up hospitalized, chances are good that the rest of us won’t be able to visit, and if it’s one of them, they will need to be brave while there and do what the doctors and nurses say. I warned them they could be given a mask or maybe even a tube to help them breathe. What do you do? Do you tell them or not? I’m worried I won’t have time to explain that to them before they are rushed away. If they get rushed to the hospital, it’s because they can’t breathe, and that’s not the time for them to hear or understand what to expect. I feel like I should warn them. But my youngest is nine, and no lie, he was a bit wigged out. I don’t have time to read how to explain this to kids. I’m doing what I feel is right for our kids, knowing we know about their emotional maturity and intellect to handle these sorts of things.
God, I hate this, but we’ve always tried our best to have age appropriate talks with our kids. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be having THIS conversation, though.
Until next time…
[Day 3 in that this is our third day of staying home…]
It’s early Sunday morning. The first thing that weighed heavily on my mind was the fact that I was skipping church along with our youngest two kids during Lent when our bishop is visiting and my husband is president of our church, my American-born husband of Chinese-Japanese-Hawaiian ethnicity who is the first president of our Carpatho-Rusyn Orthodox Church in nearly 100 years whose ancestors do not hail from eastern Europe. That still makes me laugh, but he has a winning way with people, for sure.
It just didn’t sit right with me given that I feel some obligation as a family unit and face of the church representing our parish, but I knew in my heart I was staying home with two of the kids for good reasons.
I like to pretend that I don’t care what anyone else thinks of my decision, but truth is, I do care. Caring is part of who I am. I always care. It’s one of those conundrums: how do you stay true to yourself and feel empathy for others at the same time, if empathy is even the right word to describe how I feel about it? I recognize the leadership obligation that is called for among all of us, but I also recognize I don’t always do the right thing.
It’s just…it seems like such a no-brainer to stay home this time. Surely God understands, right? The loving God, not the vengeful one we sometimes hear about. And surely, to love one another is to do what we can to help one another, so staying home is exactly that.
Thank God our bishop is “with it”. I’m not quite sure why he waited until the Greek diocese of Chicago (which we are not part of) suspended services for all but a skeleton crew (i.e., a priest and a cantor) first. But as of this morning, he made the decision to allow people to voluntarily stay home from liturgy today. My husband and oldest, an altar server, went anyway as it seemed the proper thing to do. He will report back as to how many show up.
I’m very glad the bishop made this decision as he is the only one who really could, from a leadership perspective. As much as we have a decent population of millennial families, our church is predominantly older people, the very target demographic that is impacted the most severely by COVID-19, so for their sake…well for everyone’s sake…this was good news.
I wasn’t staying home with the kids on a random whim either.
My daughter had a fever that came and went this week and now she has a cough. It’s not the dry cough we’re on the lookout for, but still. My youngest had sniffles, glassy eyes, and a cough too. It’s very likely he just has seasonal allergies, but now I’m on Mama Bear high alert.
Besides, I’ve been exceptionally fatigued over the last month and I swear this past Wednesday I felt a little flushed with a bad headache that repeated the following day. It could be that the pace at work has picked up significantly and I’m not all that great at managing stress. It could be me adjusting to a brand new prescription of hypertension medication – yay me. It could be, um, menopausal changes for all I know. (I’m a late bloomer for that sort of thing…and yes, I’m an open book sometimes. Some of you might say I share too much information, BUT you’re still reading, are you not? LOL) So…..what exactly is going on?
I’m not 100% wigging out. Maybe a teeny bit. I know the days ahead will be hard. But I’m not a pessimist. I’m actually fairly calm about this but serious. In other words, I’m a realist. True, my threshold to be triggered is a little more sensitive than some people because of the nature of my job, the fact that I’m a mom, and I’m an information junkie. I take it all in.
So far, my husband and oldest seem to be symptom free but who really knows? The kids attend school in a rather large school district of ~7500 students. Up until now, I worked among 2500-3000 people on the campus of my employer and my fellow employees come from all over northeast Ohio. My husband flits about our school district plus two other neighboring school districts to work any given week, so our little family unit is surrounded by mass gatherings daily. We get around.
And now we wait.
Before I close, let me share some good tips and insights I’ve curated over the last week. First I offer up a couple of videos from an old Pittsburgh friend of mine, Dr. Vonda Wright, one of the smartest, strongest women I know and the vocalist at our wedding. She is an orthopedic surgeon in Atlanta now, as well as an author and speaker on thriving as you age. She’s posted a couple of videos that appeared on Facebook but since some of you may not be able to see them there, I share them here for you. You can find her on LinkedIn and @DrVondaWright on Instagram.
The first is how to wash your hands like a surgeon. You know they know what they’re doing! I’ve also heard to sing a verse of Old MacDonald or pray the Lord’s Prayer while you do it so you can be sure to do it at least 20 seconds.
The second is a few tips for how to stay calm and prepare for these days of social distancing. She had some good advice given that she lives in a multi-generational household.
I also found this particular comparative guide to symptoms from Sharecare.com to be helpful:
And these mythbusters, also from Sharecare.com, some of which have me shaking my head:
In addition, I offer up this article that reminds us to safely sanitize your smartphone but I would take it a step further and remind you to do the same with your wallet, purse, credit cards, glasses, keys, steering wheel, car handles, keyboards, mouse, and anything else you have touched on a routine basis. All of this is in addition to the deep cleaning you are likely doing in your own home including doorknobs, handles, and light switches. Don’t forget to do the same with your groceries.
Being real, here, peeps. Not crazy, not hysterical. Calm but realistic.
And this article entitled “Why Outbreaks Like Coronavirus Spread Exponentially and How to ‘Flatten the Curve;” from the Washington Post which does an incredibly effective job of explaining how social distancing works. (Too bad flattening this curve isn’t all that effective in flattening some other curves I personally have, but that’s another story for another time… LOL). Read the accompanying article too. I find it incredibly cool that mathematicians and public health experts have studied these things to help us in a situation like this. Thank God for their expertise.
As of today, March 14, 2020, it’s everywhere: coronavirus or COVID-19. I figured I would attempt to post frequently to chronicle what life is like in Ohio dealing with this but with a caveat.
My professional work involves helping my company deal with enterprise risk, and believe me, COVID-19 qualifies as one as it does for so many other companies. As a result, I’m part of a larger team that is handling what our response is as a company to this event.
However I am not an official spokesperson for our company, so you won’t hear me divulge details about what we are doing as a company. Maybe one day I’ll write a book or short story about what that has been like but for now, let me just tell you about life in Medina, Ohio.
Earlier this week, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. That same day, the governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine, held a press conference about the situation in Ohio and he’s held one each day since with Dr. Amy Acton, the Director of the Ohio Department of Health, by his side also delivering remarks in a clear, calm style. One of Gov. DeWine’s directives involved the closing of public schools for a minimum of three weeks and the ban of mass gatherings of 100 people or more.
Several Americans seemed to think the news about the virus was overblown. These sentiments certainly seemed to fall naturally along the massive political divide in our country, but not exclusively. Plenty of Ohioans thought school closings and mass bans were totally uncalled for.
I sensed something different. Maybe it’s because of the nature of my work, or my natural inclination to take things more seriously than most people. I already knew the reasons why the infection numbers in the US were so low in March is because we didn’t have enough test kits in the US to confirm presence of the virus.
For the governor to ban mass gatherings of so few people meant they already had reason to believe it was far more prevalent in our state than they were officially able to say. After all, Ohio was one of the last six states to begin testing for the virus. As of today, 26 Ohioans are confirmed with the virus, with over 10 times that many under testing.
Immediately people wondered how to handle daycare for their children, especially the young school-age kids. Several large companies in Northeast Ohio are prepared enough to send their white collar/ knowledge workers home to work for the same period of time, but there are plenty of jobs that simply do not allow for that luxury. Ohioans were simply plunged into emergency mode in short order. Grocery stores sold out of toilet paper, Clorox wipes, and hand sanitizer immediately.
So all three of my kids are now home for three weeks, one of which was our already scheduled “spring break”. It doesn’t sound like the school districts will be mandating any form of education during that period of time, unlike blizzards where some packets are sent as homework.
Our kids were initially quite happy about that. It initially felt like an extended Christmas vacation to them. My daughter gleefully announced that she and her friends had already planned a bunch of sleepovers until I burst her bubble, explaining that we are being asked to engage in social distancing and our family is taking that very seriously. I mean, she had a fever earlier this week, and my youngest had glassy eyes, sniffles, and a dry cough that developed literally overnight. Sure, it could be seasonal allergies, but who really knows.
Ohio, or maybe even the US altogether, is trying to avoid being in Italy’s situation today, a week from now. Our daughter is pretty angry with us for cramping her social style. Maybe her friends don’t seem to understand the situation. Maybe their parents haven’t chatted with them, gotten through to them, or believe themselves the gravitas of what’s being asked of us all. I’m chalking her reaction up to preteen attitude for the time being but it doesn’t make it easier to deal with.
I am working from home for that same period of time. And let’s be clear: I’m an introvert. In a very weird way, this is an introvert’s dream! I don’t have to physically interact with large groups of people for a while. Cool with me. I need a serious recharge as it is. I was really looking forward to spring break for that very reason but perhaps this season will give us a chance to change a lot of things about how we live our lives.
Our official spring break vacation and planned family trip is cancelled. We had planned to take my oldest on some college visits to see what universities he might be interested in attending when he graduates public school, but it seems as though most colleges have cancelled extracurricular events and released their students for an extended period of time, so we’re not traveling to these colleges, not in the near term. You could see the look of disappointment on my son’s face but it was mixed with a solemn, growing awareness of just how serious the whole situation is for life to come to a grinding halt.
The way Governor DeWine put it, which was so incredibly wise, is “Is it necessary? And is it necessary now?”
So we’ll stay put. With very few exceptions, most of us are not leaving the house for three weeks. My husband will head out to get groceries. My oldest has joined him to do it but maybe that isn’t the best idea. It’s a good life lesson to see empty shelves in the stores and execute Plan B, but I’m worried about the exposure each is getting by being out and about.
And this is where it gets interesting: my husband is president of our church. Churches are exempt from the ban inasmuch as they are encouraged to hold services online, and many of them are. However, we’re Orthodox Christian, unchanged (i.e., “old school”) in our administration of communion that we share a chalice and a spoon with everyone in church.
Our priest reminds us that the church over millennia has made it through pandemics before. We’re told to have faith that receiving communion is life-giving, it cannot harm us in anyway as it truly is the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our church is overwhelmingly populated by people over 60 with all the underlying medical conditions that make them high risk individuals to a novel coronavirus. Like many churches, we struggle to pay the bills inasmuch as we are one of the better off Orthodox parishes, so a drop off in attendance is likely to result in massive deficits.
Money isn’t the biggest concern, nor is it the only one. Our bishop is visiting from Detroit this Sunday compelling many of us to attend to greet him. We were supposed to also welcome a second bishop from Kenya as our church raised money for an orphanage there, and he flew to the US to thank us tomorrow. However, he had to return to Kenya while the US and its rapid changes in travel policy this week allowed for him to do so.
Our priest will never tell people to stay away; he simply cannot. My husband also, as president, cannot tell people to stay away either. All he and the board of trustees can do is communicate with parishioners that they’re doing everything they can to sanitize the facility properly. Nevertheless, some parishioners are very nearly hysterical over the health implications that could devastate our long-time parishioners, our family and friends by gathering for liturgy during this holy season of Lent.
It’s a very tough situation to be in. I will readily admit that my faith is weak. I believe what the scientists are telling me. And all Ohioans, all Americans actually, have a very real opportunity to take all necessary measures to “flatten the pandemic curve” as we are guided to do so we don’t overwhelm our healthcare system. In this regard, Ohio’s governmental response is sound even if it is possibly too late to really help.
God bless the doctors, nurses, laboratory/testing team, other medical staff, EMT, police, firefighters, government officials, and anybody else I am missing who are on the front lines dealing with this issue. These people are not getting all the rest they need and they are at risk of becoming ill themselves. They need our prayers.
In other news, my husband teaches percussion on contract at a few of our local school districts and teaches private students in our home music studio. At first we thought we’d continue lessons as the studio is physically large enough to keep adequate distance between the people present, as it’s usually two or three persons at a time at most. We sent a message out to the parents and students saying as much.
But literally in the span of a few minutes of him, as studio owner, having sent that message, I felt incredibly uneasy about promoting an environment where we were not adhering to the social distancing concept. Even though we are sanitizing the studio and planned to do so throughout these days, I couldn’t bear the thought that we might be a source of the virus or a transmitter of some kind.
Within 90 minutes of telling our students and their parents that we would remain open, we notified them that we would go on physical hiatus for three weeks, to match the governor’s orders. We explained that my husband would be available to teach online, but I doubt anyone will take us up on it.
Between the studio closing and the schools closing, we just lost 1/3 of our monthly income. Now mind you, we are among the very fortunate that this situation simply means we adjust some of our financial habits, hopefully temporarily. I literally logged into our bank online and changed some of the bill paying and investing for the next few months. We’ll get by. But we had to explain to the kids that we’re taking a financial hit and our normal habits will need to change.
It makes me think of all the people impacted by this: the restaurants, hairdressers, small business people, therapists, librarians, etc., who are out of work or likely to experience a significant drop in business. I hope we can weather the storm but so many Americans live paycheck to paycheck. I don’t know how this will work without massive social, educational, financial, and business disruption not to mention the health kind. We will need to look out for one another. I contacted some of my neighbors, a few who are elderly and may not have family close by to help them, to offer our assistance should they need a grocery run or a pharmacy pickup.
I hope to God that this crisis makes America wake up and realize we have got to fix the way healthcare works in this country. There are easier and far less expensive ways of providing outstanding health care than the crazy system we’ve allowed to grow here unchecked, like tangled weeds in a garden.
The pantry and freezer are stocked, the finances are adjusted. The laundry is caught up, deep house cleaning is next, and then I am setting up my office away from the office in a separate room of the house to ramp up for the next three weeks and be as productive and helpful as possible. Work priorities will have to be shifted as this is not business as usual.
I even called the first of my two sisters to coach her to be serious about that “if you’re over 60, don’t leave the house” thing. I don’t think even she quite got it until I called her. And she, of all people, is a retired former hospital laboratory worker in charge of safety practices at her hospital. And the virus is present in her county. It didn’t click with her until I called, and maybe it still really hasn’t.
My oldest, a teenager, has already informed me that COVID-19 is already being called “The Boomer Remover”. That made for a groan-worthy laugh but it hits hard since so many of my extended family are boomers. And then there is the Coronavirus Barometer Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. If he dies, we’re all gonna die, because that dude could likely survive a nuclear holocaust along with the cockroaches.
Really bad jokes aside, our kids have had a talking to and have been challenged to do something to enrich their minds and hearts during this unprecedented time. We told them we want them to be able one day to tell their grandkids, with pride, what they did with their precious, unprecedented gift of time.
In the meantime, this experiment with the five of us at home full time for three weeks and probably more, is on. Stay tuned.
Starting in November or December for the last several years, I start to take stock of the year wrapping up, the lessons learned, the wins and celebrations. It’s become a meditation of sorts to count my blessings every chance I get.
This past year wasn’t just any old year, however. It was the close of a whole decade, a chance to think through how far I’ve come over all that time.
And you know what? I had zero desire to reflect on the last year let alone the last ten. It was a tough year for me emotionally, and they seem to be getting tougher. I discovered I am an empath, one who absorbs the energy of people around me 24×7. And considering that I’ve also become somewhat of a news junkie – and well, just LOOK at the headlines – you get an idea of the energy that I’ve absorbed.
Case in point, I didn’t write that much this past year. Part of me didn’t feel so compelled to share what’s been on my mind, and a huge part of me just wanted to come home and simply hug my dog, just to feel better inside. It was a different kind of therapy and it worked in a sense.
So this year? I’ve given myself permission to just move forward. I know exactly what I need to do. No need to dwell on lessons learned. Just LIVE in a manner that propels me forward toward the people and experiences I love.
Come to think of it, this “move forward” approach to the new year is certainly one way to cultivate a practice of mindfulness in the here and now.
What about you? Does the thought of examining the past to plan your future weigh you down? Then don’t do it. Leave the past where you left it. You have permission to go forth into the new year totally unencumbered.
Enjoy the freedom. Happy new year, indeed.
An old friend of mine recently underwent major surgery. We hadn’t spoken in years for a variety of reasons but we recently connected – you guessed it – on Facebook. He has always struck me as a private, humble man and what was remarkable was how he asked for prayers beforehand, something he had never really done before, thinking that asking for prayers was selfish on his part.
The prayers and well wishes he received from family and friends from various parts of his life were plentiful, lifted his spirits, and carried him successfully through the surgery including a frightening episode about 24 hours post-operation. He admitted afterwards that he was grateful for everyone’s prayers as it truly helped him through.
Because we hadn’t spoken in years and the severity of the surgery caught me by surprise, I called him to catch up. The conversation eventually turned to my life and whether I was happy. I had to admit that no, I really wasn’t. There is something refreshing about my 50s that I’m more apt to tell it like it is.
I shared a little bit about why I am struggling with happiness, but after so many years of not talking to this friend, I still caught myself holding back. It didn’t seem appropriate to dump my whole life story in the span of a short conversation. Besides he had some physical healing to do, and I know times like that can bring on a sort of mental reconciliation as well. There was no need for me to burden him whatsoever with my story.
Anyone looking at my life from the outside in would think I had it made. However I would urge you to look around: do you really know what burden another carries in their heart or for how long? Do you really care to know? And can you be trusted with this information if you had it?
My friend asked me if I prayed about my troubles. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat, and felt a lump in my throat before answering. Despite getting more and more frank as I age, I may have even held back on what was really in my heart when I responded.
I told him truthfully that I was 100% certain that God does not answer my prayers. Speaking from five decades of experience, of course.
I hate that that’s where my spirituality has evolved but it’s true. I can think of several concrete examples of the times I have fervently prayed to God, appealing to him for certain changes, outcomes, or relief that never came.
You’ve heard the arguments: God answers in his own time, in his own way. Maybe the things I’ve prayed for were not in my best interest.
And that’s where my head and my heart wonder: what’s the point?
As the conversation with my friend continued, I felt compelled to explain my position. I’m sure it surprised him that I didn’t give the most Christian of answers. In reality I’m really struggling with my faith. The older I get, the harder it is, too.
Yes, I believe a power greater than ourselves created everything including us. Our world, this universe? It’s all too complex and elegant and much of it beautiful to be purely random.
Yes, I believe in the power of good thoughts – that we literally send vibrations out into the world and they can be good or bad – and I’m a person who genuinely wishes well on my fellow man so I try hard to emit positive vibes all the time to everyone let alone to specific people and situations that warrant an extra flood of love.
I hear the Bible talk about how we all have talents we shouldn’t hide, and I interpret that to mean God gives us great means to care for ourselves and so we should, and we shouldn’t worry about whether we can do it – be like the lily in the field in that regard.
I’m well aware I do have so much going for me, and since God seems to ignore me when I do appeal to him (maybe because the lessons I’ve learned in life is that whatever I want is truly entirely up to me to go get), I don’t see the point of prayer other than to give thanks. Giving thanks is something I do. Prayers of thanks don’t do much to heal a broken heart, I’ve learned, but I give thanks anyway.
Over the years I’ve spoken to different priests about this. One of them has even agreed with my approach to not ask God for anything. He suggested that I simply engage in conversation with him by giving thanks and saying, “hi”. To be honest, that didn’t do much to help me grow closer to God.
My friend challenged me to answer the question, “What does Jesus mean to me?” and that’s when I truly bristled. I know what the “right” answer is. Yes, he is God’s son who died for our sins. But aren’t we all God’s children? And yes, he was innocent, but um…aren’t there hundreds of examples of innocents who die even more horrific deaths at the hands of evil? Examples that flood our smart phones on a daily basis? I’m really struggling with how the events of two millennia ago relate to me, today. I wonder what in the world is wrong with me that I don’t feel the connection that apparently every other Christian does.
It all feels so strange. In a year when my convert husband was elected president of our church, I find myself pulling away more and more. I have learned the hard way that some things are unknowable. This feels like one of them.
I’m ashamed to admit it. My sisters don’t have this crisis of faith. My old friend was likely very disheartened to hear my position – you see, he’s grown much closer to God over the years. I found myself unable to relate.
On one hand I admire people who are steadfast and strong in their faith but I really struggle – more than I should – to relate to them. You see, I put my trust in prayer and God for years, yet when I reflected on what came of it, I felt abandoned, not loved. I find myself reluctant to get stung like that again, especially when I have always tried to be a good person. Nowadays, I trust myself far more than an unseen, invisible, presumably benevolent force. The Bible even warns us about these very things, yet here I am. I guess that’s arrogance at its worst.
This isn’t to say I haven’t asked for prayers over the years. I can count on one hand how many times I have legitimately asked for prayers among my family and friends. One of those times, even my sister commented that it must be something weighing very heavy on my heart for me to ask for help. And you know what? I still struggled. I don’t know that it helped.
And maybe my current perspective is exactly why I’m struggling with happiness. The irony is not lost on me.
Strange, isn’t it? They say confession is good for the soul. Perhaps. I’m just baring mine so that others don’t feel quite so alone if they’re struggling with the same thing. Quite possibly this is what it means to be a broken Christian. I never claimed to be without sin.