A Plea for Reason during This Pandemic

Are you scared? I’m scared. There’s no shame in that. Anyone with any sense right now is scared. And during times of heightened fear, it is natural for us to want to seek out some sort of magic bullet that will save us all from invisible evils such as COVID-19. But I’m asking you to use your head.

In the past few weeks, several friends have forwarded a variety of voice recordings to me. There are many things these voice recordings have in common.

  • The person on the recording never identifies him or herself by name.

  • The person claims to be in the medical field, or claims to have gotten this information from a reliable source in the medical field.

  • The person then goes on to give all sorts of medical advice that has been “proven” to help you avoid getting COVID-19, or perhaps help you recover quickly if you test positive.

Some of the things they have suggested are:

  • Taking large amounts of Vitamin C.

  • Avoiding Ibuprofen, or, specifically (for some unknown reason), Advil.

  • Avoiding cold liquids.

  • Drinking hot liquids, because this washes the virus into your stomach where the acid then takes care of it.

  • Drinking nothing but lemon.

  • Drinking bleach.

I can’t stress this enough:

⇒ ALL OF THESE THEORIES HAVE BEEN DEBUNKED. ⇐

Ask yourself these things:

  • If any of these magical cures actually worked, don’t you think that Dr. Fauci, and the rest of the doctors from the Centers for Disease Control, would be broadcasting it every 5 minutes on TV?

  • Don’t you think that they’d be shouting it from the rooftops?

  • And why would these unidentified, supposed doctors in all these recordings be passing this information on in an unsophisticated way, as if they’re giving you some sort of privileged, insider scoop?

Here are some more myths that need to be busted:

  • The mistaken belief that you can get the virus by eating Chinese food.

  • The insanity that opening a package from China is more dangerous than opening any other package at this time.

  • The outrageous belief that all Asians are somehow to blame for this and deserve to be punished.

  • The dream that this will all be over by Easter.

  • The erroneous idea that most masks will protect you from the virus, when in fact they’re much more effective in preventing you from spreading the virus to others.

  • The conspiracy theory that this virus was intentionally created in a lab.

  • The fantasy that this virus is no worse than the common flu.

I am begging you, pleading with you:

  • Do not pass on unsubstantiated information.

  • Do your research.

  • Don’t simply share things about this pandemic because it sounds plausible and makes you feel better. It’s only causing more confusion.

Next thing you know, they’ll be telling you to sacrifice chickens, while naked, during the light of the full moon. While this might prove to be an amusing break from the monotony, the chickens sure wouldn’t appreciate it. Not even a little bit.

I know it would be nice to have a get out of jail free card during these trying times, but I urge you to listen to the easily identified infectious disease experts, not other people (who shall remain nameless) with an agenda.

  • Wash your hands.

  • Remain socially distant.

  • Stay at home whenever possible.

We can get through this. The vast, vast majority of us will. That’s a fact.

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PLEASE DON’T DO THIS FOR ANY REASON!!!!

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Being Distantly Social

I don’t think I realized how isolated I was feeling until I saw videos of the Italians singing from their balconies. It brought tears to my eyes. But I don’t have a balcony, and my nearest neighbor isn’t even within shouting distance.

Social distancing sucks. While the concept is important, and absolutely must be adhered to, the term sounds like a punishment. At a time when we all need each other more than ever, it sounds like we’re in jail. Solitary confinement.

But this is 2020, y’all, and we don’t have to take it lying down. We have technology! Instead of being socially distant, we can be distantly social. Because we truly are all in this together.

For example, last Sunday I attended virtual Unitarian Universalist Church via an app called Zoom. The sermon was in one living room. The music came from another. A story was read from a third. We all watched and participated on our computers. We were able to express our cares and concerns on camera or via text. One gentleman even attended from his hospital bed.

It was all unexpectedly comforting. We were all alone, and yet together, doing the same thing at the same time. Fellowship. For a brief shining moment, I found it impossible to feel sorry for myself. And it was also fun. I wasn’t bored. Those moments are few and far between these days.

I’ve heard of all sorts of creative ways that people are getting together virtually. A local librarian is doing virtual storytime for the kiddies live on Facebook. A friend of mine had a virtual talent show where people performed from their various living rooms. Neighborhoods are hosting teddy bear hunts. They’re putting teddy bears in their windows for kids to be able to walk around and see from the sidewalk. Virtual book clubs are cropping up, and people are watching movies together while sitting on Skype so they can still make snarky comments about the movie together. And if you’re not so technically inclined, of course, there’s still the good old fashioned telephone.

And now more than ever, it’s important to check in (distantly) with your elderly or disabled friends, neighbors, and loved ones. They feel isolated at the best of times. This must be a special form of torture for them.

Yes, I know that virtual socializing isn’t exactly like the real thing, but it’s what we’ve got right now. If you’d like to (virtually) interact with people face to face, I highly recommend Second Life. I’ve written more about it here, but in essence, you get an avatar, and move through the world with other people.

It’s not a game or a competition, and you don’t have to spend any money in there. You can go to church, go dancing, listen to live music, explore, or just sit in a virtual coffee shop and talk to people. It’s the closest thing to real life that you may be able to find these days.

I’ve made amazing friends in Second Life for more than a decade, and I’ve done a lot of exciting things there. So if you’re feeling cooped up, check it out! There’s no COVID in cyberspace!

Stay safe, everybody!

Second Life
Socialize in the virtual world of Second Life!

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The Fickle Finger of Fate

This was supposed to be a triumphant blog post. I had been writing it in my head all day. After my really scary near-death experience where I plunged down a steep hillside in my snowmobile (read more about that here), I decided to get back up on that horse, so to speak, and face my fear. (As a matter of fact, I planned to title the post, “I Got Back on the Horse!”)

Long story short, we went snowmobiling again.

It was a really beautiful day. The sun was shining, so the snow was sparkling like diamonds. I don’t know if my shoulder was aching because I was tense from the PTSD of the previous week’s scare, or if I was tense because my shoulder was aching, but I was really worried about my ability to control this 450 pound machine that had already proven to me that things can go very quickly south when it decides to have a mind of its own. So I was being extra careful.

But I was going to face my fear and emerge triumphant, by God! Even if it killed me. Hubris strikes again.

I actually did conquer that ridge. I rode up the other side of it and then down the 400 vertical feet of incline behind me. It was scary. My heart was pounding. But I did it. I did it! Afterward, my husband took this picture of me below. I was feeling all triumphant. That would have been the perfect end note for that planned blog post.

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Me, triumphant after conquering that ridge. Before everything went to sh*t.

Sadly, that wasn’t the end of our day.

I was feeling all cocky, so when my husband offered to show me other parts of the Sno-Park that I had never seen, but that he’d been to about 50 times, I was all for it.

It was beautiful. Pristine, powdery snow. Mountain views. I was feeling so happy and alive.

And then.

I was following my husband up a track through some trees, and I lost sight of him as he went around a curve. I wasn’t more than a few seconds behind, but when I went around the curve, I still didn’t see him. And then I realized he was way off to the side, and he was on all fours in the snow, coughing. And his snowmobile was further on, wedged in the trees.

I stopped my snowmobile so abruptly that it stalled. I jumped off and started running toward him (if you can call stumbling through a foot of snow running). My mind was in a state of confusion.

“My God, are you okay?”

“It knocked the wind out of me.”

It seems that in that brief period when he was out of my sight, he hit a bump, and just as I did the previous week, he gripped the handlebars tightly, thus squeezing the throttle. The next thing he knew, he was airborne.

The snowmobile flew more than 25 feet and hit the trees. I know this for certain because I saw where the tracks disappeared from the snow. Fortunately, he was thrown (or he threw himself. He can’t remember.) off the snowmobile before it hit. But that also means that his 25 foot flight was abruptly terminated by hitting a tree himself. Thank God he was wearing a rigid safety vest.

So now, here we were, in the middle of nowhere, in the silent, snowy wilderness, in the late afternoon. Beautiful nature suddenly seemed a lot more deadly. This was bad.

Right, then. Time to get his snowmobile out of the trees.

It wouldn’t back out on its own. That would have been too easy. But every attempt to reverse dug the snowmobile deeper into the soft powdery snow that had been accumulating under the trees for weeks. And we had no rope, so we couldn’t tow it out. So we began to shovel the snow from around the smoking machine.

After an hour, we had only been able to drag it about 4 feet, but it still had to go another 8 before it would hit solid snow. I’m not very strong, and my husband seemed less super-heroic than usual. And the sun kept getting lower on the horizon. I was getting kind of nervous.

We had tried contacting people on the emergency radio, but we appeared to have the entire park to ourselves. That seemed like a good thing earlier in the day. Now it seemed like a very, very bad thing. Even if we had been able to get a cell phone signal, it would have been awfully hard to describe where we were, as we were off the established trail.

There was nothing for it. We were both going to have to ride out on my snowmobile, even though it wasn’t made for two people. I climbed on behind my husband, and had to hang on for dear life, leaning back at a severe angle. We hadn’t gone very far at all before I realized I was going to be in a lot of pain quite soon. This was going to be a long 10-mile slog.

I had been thinking about all the ways this could have been worse. He could have died or been impaled by a tree branch. He could have been knocked out. I’m not strong enough to pull the ripcord to start my snowmobile, so I couldn’t have gotten help. I had no idea where we were. I wouldn’t have been able to save him or contact anyone or walk out. We’d have frozen to death. I began to realize that I wasn’t a help in this instance. I was more of a liability. And that made me feel horrible. How could I have been that stupid?

While I was having all those awful thoughts, we came around yet another curve, and there were two beautiful, young, strong guys, sitting on their snowmobiles, having their lunch. I wanted to cry with relief.

They were able to dig Cris’ snowmobile out, and we were ready to go. But it was becoming increasingly apparent to me that my husband was a lot more hurt than he was letting on. He had been calm and collected the whole time, but I think he did that so that I wouldn’t freak out. He could no longer pull the cords to start our engines. Our heroes had to do that.

We were able to drive out of there, but I could tell that my husband was feeling every single bump of that 10 mile trek.

As soon as we got to the truck and manhandled the snowmobiles onto the trailer, we headed straight toward civilization, and finally, gratefully, to an emergency room, where I was promptly kicked out because of a fear of spreading COVID-19.

He was there for hours, and I couldn’t even hold his hand. We found out he had broken two ribs but had no internal injuries or bleeding. By the next day, he looked like I had beaten him with a baseball bat.

He has a 6-8 week recovery ahead of him, but he’s alive. No more snowmobiling for us. We have too much to live for.

A special thank you to Mike and Josh from North Bend, Washington, for saving our lives. I wish I had gotten their last names. Things would have been much worse if they hadn’t been there.

_______________________________________

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A Group Story to Keep from Going Nuts

If you’re like me, you’re starting to understand why pets try to run out of the house every time the door opens. (I wish I could take credit for that. It’s a meme going around Facebook.) In other words, I’m going stir crazy. Even this introvert is starting to miss community interaction, so recently I posted the following on my blog’s Facebook group:

Write a story with me! Everyone contribute a few sentences at a time. Please keep it relatively PG, and expand and read all comments before contributing. If it works out, I’ll post it on my blog.

I contributed the first sentence and chimed in to keep the story on track here and there, but special thanks to Chuck Christison, Cris LeCompte, Jennifer Dropkin, and Florita Robinson for contributing. This was fun! I may have to do it again!

Without further ado, here’s the story we came up with:

Serenity’s Tenement

In spite of the quarantine, Serenity was able to entertain herself by eavesdropping on her neighbors from the balcony of her crowded tenement.

And then a sound came to her that she had never heard during her daily, and now hourly observation, of the sights and sounds of her very small corner of the place she called home.

This particular conversation seemed to be rather one-sided until a response came in a guttural voice that sounded like the dog replying.

Could it be Mrs. Polliver’s poodle from across the way? Surely not.

Or maybe it was Mr. Pratt, that old guy who always smelled of cheap booze and cigarettes. They say he used to be a Negro league baseball player of some import. He even knew Jackie Robinson when he was a kid.

He did have a guttural voice, there’s no denying it. But he was a man of few words, once you got past all the Jackie Robinson stories.

Serenity didn’t think it was him though. He is only happy when his small social security check comes in and he can stock up at the bodega. Otherwise he doesn’t say much as he is slumped on the front stoop. It’s god awful hot and humid and people in these parts don’t have any cool air.

People were getting restless from the heat and the fact that they couldn’t leave their homes. Arguments were breaking out throughout the building. But this particular conversation didn’t sound like an argument. It sounded much more sinister.

It was the funniest thing to watch Ms. Shuller and Ms. Lopez argue while leaning out their windows. Serenity was not sure what it was about, but all that “red in the face” , hand waving and yelling must have been about something. She was really afraid they were going to fall out of their 3rd floor windows and splatt on that concrete.

Serenity wished those old biddies would shut up, so she could hear the machinations going on below.

She loved that word “machinations”. She heard it on TV, Jeopardy, she thought. Always lot of big words on that show. There is that sound again. It didn’t sound natural.

It sounded like a cross between a bagpipe and Mr. Tolliver’s typical after dinner belch, but sound tended to echo in this alley in unpredictable ways.

But then Serenity heard Ms. Lopez say to Ms. Shuller, “You shouldn’t have taken that package off of his stoop after he went back in to get more cigarettes.”

Ms. Shuller replied, “Nonsense. He’ll never miss it! Let’s see what’s inside!” Intrigued, Serenity peeked over her balcony railing. Could the package be where the strange sound was coming from?

The package was wrapped in brown paper with a ton of tape. Covered with a colorful mass of different size stamps all in symbols I didn’t recognize. Sure wasn’t English.

Ms. Shuller noticed some holes punched into the side of the package.

As Ms Shuller peered closely at the holes, she realized she heard a scratching sound from within the package. What could it possibly be?

And then the stench hit her.

It smelled like a combination of curdled milk and rotting asparagus. “Ugh!” Ms. Shuller screamed, and she tossed the package as far away from her as she possibly could. It landed squarely on Serenity’s balcony.

And then it moved.

I’ll repeat that in case you didn’t hear it the first time. It. Moved.

Suddenly the quarantine felt like the least of Serenity’s worries.

So Serenity thinks to herself? “Self? How bad could it be?” Summoning her inner explorer, she took out her trusty well-worn pocketknife, a gift from her grandmother, and started in.

But then she had second thoughts.

Serenity shrieked and jumped to the corner of her balcony. Now what?! She did not dare open the package. There is a 2 meter social distance, remember?!

So she grabbed a broom, and holding the knife in front of her for protection, she flipped the package over her railing. It landed squarely on the lap of Mr. Pratt, who had been passed out on the front stoop. He said…

“What did you get from Borneo?” He slipped into a chatty high pitched language as he rattled off the price paid, where it came from, and a story of being marooned with pretty local girls during that Typhoon in ‘46. He was just getting furloughed from the merchant marines and he was flush with Yankee dollars.

“Beats me,” Serenity shouted down. “It’s your package. Ms. Shuller stole it off you when you went in for cigarettes.”

“Did not!” Ms. Shuller shouted.

As his cloudy eyes focused, a sense of knowing came over him. He straightened up with an air of long lost tenderness. “Oh , Suni my dear?” His gnarled hands traced the exterior of the box gingerly that were splashed with his tears. “How could you ?”

Suni had been a surprise when Mr Pratt returned to Borneo eighteen years after his visit in ’46. It was quite something to discover he’d been a father without knowing all those years.

He had loved her instantly like any father would have. Alas, he could not obtain the visa to stick around. As a parting gift, he had gone to the local market and gotten her a Spectacled Flowerpecker. She had loved that bird and named it Phinnius, after her father.

When Mr. Pratt finally managed to cut the tape on one corner, he could see a single black eye looking back at him, Staring right into his psyche.

“Oh, Suni,” he said. “How could you?” Because gazing up at him was the very bird he’d given his daughter so long ago. In the package were its favorite foods, milk and asparagus, both long since spoiled. The creature was ravenous.

Then Mr. Pratt took a closer look and realized that it wasn’t his namesake, Phinneas the Spectacled Flowerpecker, after all. It was a Magpie Robin, and it needed a veterinarian who would not tell the authorities that it had made it from Borneo to the States without detection. And it needed some insects to eat. Whatever that stinky mush was in the bottom of the box, it wasn’t asparagus or milk….

Mr. Pratt was relieved that it wasn’t Phinneas after all, as he couldn’t imagine what he could have done to Suni to make her reject that gift. Then he noticed that there was a card inside a plastic bag at the bottom of the box. He had to wipe the stinky mush away to get to it, but he’d done worse in his time. He carefully opened the card. It said…

“Dear Dad, I know that you blame yourself for being absent in my life but I wanted you to know I forgive you. You did the best with what you had”. I hope this gift makes it to you and ……”

…and the rest of the sentence was blurred out by the stinky mush that had gotten through the plastic! Mr. Pratt whipped out his cell phone and called Suni in Borneo. “Suni,” he said,…

But Serenity couldn’t understand the rest as it was in another language.

While the words in the note were trashed, his eyes were drawn to the picture. The childish drawing of a stick figure tall man and a smaller stick figure child with a heart and a sun

And as the cheap booze-addled brain began to clear, he recognized that picture as being similar to the ones that Suni used to draw with worn crayons and scrap paper to leave in his lunchbox before he went to work. Many days of toil were broken by her sweet pictures. The emotions came flooding back as tears filled his eyes and poured down his weather worn cheeks.

“I love you, Suni,” he said. “Stay safe during this quarantine. Wash your hands.” His tears flowed as he hung up the phone.

Seeing this, Serenity wanted to hug the old derelict, but in these times of quarantine and social distance, she knew she couldn’t do so. So instead, she lowered a bag of birdseed down on a string. “For your new friend,” She said.

She then stuck her tongue out at Ms. Shuller, the package thief. Ms. Shuller went inside and slammed the window shut. But everyone knew she wouldn’t sulk for long. It was too hot to sit inside.

Mr. Pratt took the seeds and poured them into his cupped hand as the Magpie Robin began to peck at the seeds. After several minutes of frantic feeding it stopped. The bird looked up at Mr. Pratt and made eye contact. At the very moment he felt as if he had been transported to Suni’s side. He felt that wave of contentment flood over him and he closed his eyes to take it all in as it washed over him.

Even in this time of social distancing, there are ways to reach out.

Serenity looked at all the people on the various balconies and realized that each one had a story. And somehow that brought her comfort. We are each unique, and yet we are all in this together. As the bird began to sing, she felt as though she might survive this quarantine with her sanity intact after all.

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The Two Most Obnoxious Communication Habits

I once wrote an email to a work colleague that included a complaint about certain people not doing a very important part of their jobs. I didn’t write this to gossip. I wrote this in the hope that she’d be able to put a stop to it. We work different shifts, and I rarely see her, so I thought email would be the best way to communicate in this instance. Silly me.

Instead, she shared my email, without my permission, with another coworker. And he decided to share it with everyone, including the people I had named, so that he could look good by defending these people. My relationship with pretty much everyone has been damaged by this.

There is nothing as obnoxious and outrageous as sharing someone’s email without their permission. Yes, it’s easy to do, so people who would never think to share personal letters don’t hesitate to forward emails. We seem to have forgotten basic etiquette.

Another thing that drives me absolutely nuts is when I call someone, and they put me on speaker phone so that others can hear, without telling me. Someone in my chain of command does this all the time. That person has broken my trust. It makes me not want to talk to him unless absolutely necessary.

I talk to different people in different ways. I share information with some people that I wouldn’t share with others. I should have the right to choose who hears what in my life. Taking that right away from me is unacceptable. And yet it happens all the time.

If you have either one of these bad habits, I urge you to rethink your communication style. Not violating people’s privacy is common courtesy. Thank you.

Eavesdropping

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þetta reddast

It takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to live in Iceland. Harsh winter weather, earthquakes, volcanoes, severe storms, avalanches, isolation from the rest of the world, and days with only 4 hours of sunlight are just a few of the challenges that Icelanders have faced. According to this article, the country’s founders arrived in open boats in the 9th century, fleeing Norwegian slavery. With no maps or navigational devices, they braved the harsh North Atlantic, and their descendants have thrived.

After enduring so much, it’s really impressive that their unofficial motto is þetta reddast, (pronounced thet-ta red-ust), which means, basically, everything will turn out okay.

Are they foolish, cock-eyed optimists? Not exactly. They just have confidence that they can fix things, combined with a capitulation to the fact that so much is out of their control. It’s a comforting phrase that helps them get through the harshest conditions. Perhaps we all need to adopt this attitude during these trying times.

Once we realized that our trip to Italy had to be cancelled, we considered Iceland. That was in the early days. But at the time of this writing, Iceland had reported 890 cases of COVID-19 and two deaths. I’m sure by the time you read this, those numbers will have increased. May their positive attitude see them through.

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#MakeaJoyfulNoise

It was 7:15 pm last night and I was sitting alone on my drawbridge, contemplating this strange new world in which we live. One in which we are isolated, even in a crowded city like Seattle. I was feeling lonely and sad.

Then my husband sent me a link to an article entitled, Seattleites encouraged to make ‘joyful noise’ tonight in appreciation of front line workers in coronavirus pandemic.

It was asking people to make some noise at 8pm that very night. Play an instrument. Sing. Bang some pots. Anything to support those frontline workers. What a delightful concept.

So, being on my drawbridge, I decided to set my alarm and blow my horn for 15 seconds at 8pm. It was exciting, somehow, to express myself in the face of this pandemic. I blew my horn for Paula and Steve and John, all friends who work in health care. It was glorious.

But then it was kind of a letdown, because I didn’t hear anyone else making a noise. But wait. I turned off my heater and opened the window. And there it was. Pots and pans! Cowbells! People were coming together!

Crazy how a president can divide us but a pandemic virus can unite us once again.

I hope this becomes a nightly thing, because this is the best I’ve felt in weeks! I hope all the bridges will blow their horns at 8 pm. I hope all the buses will toot. I hope people will shout from their balconies.

We’re still here! We’re still here! We’re still here!

we are here

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