Category Archives: General Interest

Freedom Isn’t Free

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Filed under American Character, Food for Thought, General Interest, Military

Some thoughts on self-reliance

“I understand that folks growing up in the cities don’t have some of the outdoor opportunities that some of us have, but I am convinced that there are opportunities to develop individuality, independence, self-confidence and other survival skills without having to spend a year in the Rockies on some kind of sabbatical. Survival is more a mind-set than a setting. Attitude is everything.

Being innovative and imaginative is essential whether you’re in downtown Houston or central Nebraska. Skills of observation and patience are not natural talents, but acquired skills; both are essential and both can be acquired through discipline. The ability to reason and employ a rational, decision making process is needed in order to survive and thrive. Again, that is an acquired skill. Determination, grit if you will, is a trait to be cherished, not erased.”

Gimme A Knife, by Gladius Maximus

 
After two months of COVID-19 lockdown/social distancing drama, the relentless spin dramas leave me feeling both sad COVID-19 has devolved into just another partisan flashpoint in our ongoing culture war and at the same time looking for glimmers of hope that there’s enough goodwill and good old common sense left in America to help tamp down on the media and partisan 24/7 spin incitement.  I’m trying to tune out most of the partisan political stuff.

The ironic part about these new COVID-19 social distancing guidelines in my life is my adult children seamlessly pivoted their lectures.  Five years ago I stopped working to stay at home and take care of my husband.  It was no longer safe for him to be home alone for hours.  He was falling frequently and the dementia and memory loss from the normal pressure hydrocephalus had gotten much worse.  Since then, my kids routinely lectured me about, “You need to get out of the house more.”  As soon as the health experts and government officials started putting out these social distancing warnings, my kids began the “Stay at home, Mom!” lectures pointing out, “It’s not only Dad who is at risk, you are too!”  I have, oh, what’s that in vogue term now… ah, yes, “comorbidities.”

I hadn’t been getting out of my house much anyway, so my every day life has continued as normal.  One daughter advised me to use the shop online/pick-up option at my local Wal-mart Neighborhood Market and I have used that a few times.  The only other concerted effort I’ve made is I’ve been assessing my pantry and gradually buying some extra canned goods and non-perishable items.  Since I already keep my pantry overstocked, I’m not out panic-buying mountains of toilet paper, but paying more attention to what food items I have already and what items might be useful to stock up on to round out meals, in case of food shortages.  Yes, as unimaginable as it seems, food shortages in our vast food supply, now seem possible in America.

Here’s the thing about having an overstocked pantry and this especially applies to the people panic-buying and rushing around hoarding one thing or another during this pandemic – overstocking easily leads to more waste.  I learned this from making this mistake many times over the years purchasing those “too good to pass up” sales.  You’ve got to look through your cupboards, fridge and freezer.  You’ve got to learn to rotate your food – pulling the oldest stuff to the front and putting the new items to the back.  That way you use up the older items, rather than having them turn into wasted food and food dollars.  Trust me on this, because I’ve failed to do this so many times and ended up throwing away food items that should have been tossed years (yes, years) ago.

On social media it seems a lot of people, especially celebrity types, while teleworking from home have embraced baking bread and cooking gourmet type meals and plastering photos and videos online.  There’s nothing wrong with baking bread or cooking gourmet type meals, but as with everything, if you’re new to baking bread and cooking, it’s way more practical to start small rather than rushing to buy a lot of new ingredients and cookware, you’re unfamiliar with.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with developing new baking and cooking skills, but acquiring common sense and an ability to slow down and assess the pros and cons are skills that will see you through any crisis in life.  Assessing your finances and making sure you have some money set aside should outweigh buying a lot of cooking utensils and new ingredients, especially if your real goal is to post photos and videos online to impress your followers or subscribers on social media.  Social media has created a very negative “keeping up with the Joneses” culture, where one “popular” person posts something “new” and then dozens (or even thousands) of other people rush to be just like that “popular” person. 

Media and social media generated hype and/or hysteria  have induced panic-buying of everything from toilet paper to yeast.  Yes, all that baking bread by the media peeps has led to a run on yeast, where it’s hard to find yeast in grocery stores.  Never fear though, on YouTube there are numerous videos on how to make your own yeast for baking.

My top three crisis coping tips are:

1. Take care of yourself and your family first.  You will better able to help others if you get your own life in order first. Learn to take time to calmly assess your own life and your own situation.  Assess you and your family’s finances, your food and health needs.  Don’t let the social media personalities, media, politicians, experts or even friends and family prod you into making rushed decisions.  Slow down, take a deep breath and think for yourself.

2. Learning to cultivate calm should be at the top of your crisis preparedness list.  Cultivating calm requires developing patience and hope.  As a worst-case planner type personality, I have to catch myself often and work hard on developing a hopeful attitude.

3. Work to simplify your daily routine rather than adding a lot of confusing and impractical actions.  For instance, I love gardening, but with my household tasks and taking care of my husband, I know I won’t be able to properly care for a garden too.  Then there’s the cost of gardening supplies and from previous home-gardening experience here in GA, knowing that bugs, drought or too much rain can wipe up months of hard work quickly.  Another big factor in my decision-making was remembering all the heavy-lifting gardening tasks my husband always took care of – like roto-tilling the garden and all of the composting chores. I decided buying store-bought canned goods and dried goods, which are safe and will last years is a more practical option.  Setting out on some home gardening/self-reliant dream right now would be setting myself up for more stress, failure and likely a big waste of money.

Learning to be more self-reliant and developing survival skills has way more to do with developing crucial critical-thinking skills and a can-do attitude than with stocking up on particular items or listening to certain “experts.”   My mother was the calmest person in a crisis and she definitely possessed  a fiercely self-reliant attitude.  She also possessed very varied skill sets and knew how to handle everything from nursing to doing electrical wiring.  My father had a perpetually optimistic attitude, could build and fix many things and was an expert gardener.  I grew up in rural PA, where a self-reliant attitude was still the norm.  Around rural America that sort of rugged individualism, where people believe in taking care of themselves and helping their neighbors, still flourishes.

When life is calm is the time to occasionally think about those “what-if” things that might go wrong.  Developing some common sense and proportionality in crisis planning takes practice.  In the midst of a crisis it’s harder to stay calm and it’s certainly harder to slow down and think through those “what ifs.”   Just the mental practice of thinking about those “what ifs’ when the sun is shining and skies are blue can help you develop a crucial emergency coping skill – fighting fear-driven reactions.  Thinking about those “what ifs” should prod you into learning to prepare for problems before they hit and then if you find yourself in the midst of a crisis, you can more easily focus on calmly thinking of  “what actions can I take?” rather than letting fear (or media hysteria) take control.

I had plenty of food and basic supplies to last two weeks, so I wasn’t worried about that initial 15 day “flatten the curve” effort.  When that effort extended past 15 days and items that have never been out of stock in stores, became hard to find, well, it sure seems prudent to spend some time thinking about some “what ifs” that I had never thought about in my lifetime – food shortages in America. 

There’s still plenty of food in America, but the disruptions to our food supply system, caused by the lockdowns, panic-buying, COVID-19 outbreaks in meat processing facilities, and economic turmoil left me thinking about what happens if these types of disruptions continue for months or even a year or two?  I’m not panic-buying, but working on looking through my canned and dried food items, my freezer and my fridge and making lists of items I want to purchase to have a food supply that can last 3-6 months.  Of course, my adult kids tell me frequently there’s enough food here to last a year, I don’t really think that’s true, so I want to strategically expand it some.

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Filed under COVID-19, General Interest, Things That Matter

A COVID-19 lockdown reality check

I saw this video on Twitter yesterday and this guy offers the reality check on the politicians and pundits pushing  extending lockdowns for several months.  The mayor of Los Angeles went so far as to say we can’t fully open until there’s a vaccine or cure.  He walked that back, after receiving a lot of push back.  Here’s the video:

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Our American heart

Just when the partisan spin garbage left me feeling totally disgusted, GWB comes through with the message we all should take to heart:

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Some COVID-19 Ponderings

This  novel corona virus  (COVID-19) and ensuing global pandemic has created  a petri dish for manufacturing new spin terminology.  It feels surreal that I’ve come to cringe every time I hear a Dem politician or Dem-aligned media pundit harp, “We have to trust the science!” The thing that’s become crystal clear is that “the science” isn’t as rock solid on facts as presented and continually shifts to fit the political agenda… which makes it more spin words than actual “science.”  Even much of the information about COVID-19 presented as good faith scientific fact gleaned from careful research keeps shifting, based on new research that upends the previous scientific research and/or the data used ends up being updated with newer, contradictory data.

Yesterday the Los Angeles Times reported two autopsies of deaths from early February in Santa Clara county reveal they had COVID-19, which is weeks earlier than the previously reported first COVID-19 death in the US on February 29th.  Today CA governor, Gavin Newsom, has ordered medical examiners and coroners in CA to review autopsies back to December, to see if more deaths might have been COVID-19-related:

“California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) ordered medical examiners and coroners across the state to review autopsies dating back to December to “help guide a deeper understanding of when this pandemic really started to impact Californians.”

“When this occurred is important forensic information, profoundly significant in understanding the epidemiology of this disease, all of those things are brought to bear with more clarity and light,” Newsom at a daily press briefing Wednesday. “Not only because of this specific announcement, but I imagine subsequent announcements that may be made by similar efforts all across the state of California.”

Newsom’s announcement came after officials in Santa Clara County said late Tuesday that first American deaths from coronavirus occurred weeks earlier than initially thought.”

https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/494200-california-gov-orders-autopsies-back-to-december-to-find-out-how-long

Twitter tales abound of people wondering if their respiratory illnesses in late 2019-early 2020 were  COVID-19.  There was a dramatic uptick in people presenting upper respiratory infections and these two deaths in early February have moved the confirmed case timeline back several weeks.  It would be very important information to know when the first COVID-19 cases actually occurred in the US, which would give us a better understanding of the data coming from China.

Jim Geraghty at National Review has written frequently about COVID-19 and yesterday he mentioned these two CA autopsies, but he connected this information  to a March Chinese propaganda effort trying to blame the US military for bringing COVID-19 to China:

“In all of the hubbub of mid-March, as the scale of the danger of SARS-CoV-2 and the far-reaching shutdown of American live became clear, it was easy to miss Lijian Zhao, spokesman for the foreign ministry of China, making Twitter accusations that the virus was a U.S. bioweapon. Even easier to miss was his tweet linking to a paper contending the virus was linked to U.S. attendance at the Military World Games, which took place in Wuhan in October 2019. (That paper has since been taken down from the web.)

The 7th World Military Games, an Olympic-style competition, was held in Wuhan and began October 18 and ended October 27. The event was a big one for the city and for China, complete with elaborate opening and closing ceremonies. “More than 9,000 athletes from over 100 countries competed in more than 27 sports, a record number of participants. This year’s games also presented a number of other firsts: the first time the games were staged outside of military bases, the first time the games were all held in the same city, the first time an Athletes’ Village was constructed, the first time TV and VR systems were powered by 5G telecom technology, and the first use of all-round volunteer services for each delegation.”

At the end of March, the state-run Global Times newspaper claimed that the coronavirus, which was first discovered in Wuhan, was in fact manufactured in a U.S. military lab and brought to China by a cyclist who took part in the World Military Games. They cited the work of a man they labeled an “investigative journalist,” who in 2017 contributed to the brief shutdown of part of the port of Charleston, S.C., over a false claim of a dirty bomb on a container ship.”

https://www.nationalreview.com/the-morning-jolt/what-went-down-at-the-world-military-games/?utm_source=recirc-desktop&utm_medium=homepage&utm_campaign=river&utm_content=featured-content-trending&utm_term=first

 Geraghty states the earliest confirmed case in China, based on a Lancet report, is December 1, 2019.

As one of those people wondering about an earlier severe respiratory infection, I hope that at some point my husband and I can get the COVID-19 antibody test.  My son was sick with an upper respiratory infection the 2nd week of January.  The next week my husband became very ill with an upper respiratory infection and was hospitalized with acute respiratory failure.  Around a week later, I got sick with an upper respiratory infection and my primary care doctor prescribed a Z-Pak.   While I didn’t get severely ill like my husband, I had a cough that took almost a month to clear up.  Of course, as my daughter reminds me, we live in a podunk GA town making COVID-19 exposure unlikely,  I keep reminding her that we are also right next to a large US Army installation, with people coming and going from all over the world.

This COVID-19 timeline in America will be a story I will follow with great interest.  Even if I found out we had COVID-19 already, here again, there’s no sense of security about  “the science” in regards to that providing immunity:

“Another Forbes contributor Bruce. Y. Lee covered many of the main points and what we knew a few weeks ago here, but since then, more reports of people appearing to be re-infected with the SARS-CoV2 coronavirus are popping up everywhere. Most recently, 51 South Koreans with COVID-19 re-tested positive after being released from quarantine. However, a key question South Korean authorities and everywhere else with these “reinfected cases” are now trying to figure out is whether these people did indeed recover and were then re-infected with the virus, or whether they never recovered completely at all.

Although no conclusions about this immunity question can currently be definitively made, a new preprint study from China suggests that some people who have recovered from a mild bout of COVID-19 may have very low, or even undetectable levels of protective antibodies against the SARS-CoV2 coronavirus, with the researchers claiming that their study is the first systematic examination of antibody levels in people who have recovered from the disease.”

https://www.forbes.com/sites/victoriaforster/2020/04/08/can-you-get-sick-with-coronavirus-again-after-youve-already-had-it-new-research-continues-to-emerge-but-the-jury-is-still-out/#174a944331a5

At this point it seems saying, “We have to trust the science!” isn’t really based on scientifically rock solid facts, but more evolving studies and research.  It seems rather reckless to base sweeping, long-term public policy decisions, completely changing every aspect of American life, based on trusting in science that is still more a work in progress than settled scientific facts.  Would it change our understanding of the “curve” if we found out COVID-19 was spreading for months before that first confirmed case?  Would it change our understanding if millions of Americans were already exposed?  All I know is it seems the certitude of the partisans ranting about trusting “the science,” as always, is more about advancing their political agenda than about public health… or “science.”

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Filed under COVID-19, General Interest, Politics

Short COVID-19 update

It’s been almost a month since I’ve written a blog post, so here are a few COVID-19 observations.  The politicization of this viral outbreak, while predictable, has been as disturbing as all the rapid governmental orders and edicts, all geared toward “keeping us safe.”   The zeal with which many pundits and politicians abandon our foundational principles and fundamental rights spread way more quickly than this virus and it’s infected many partisans, on both sides of the political aisle.  The measures many people embrace out of fear and the desire to feel “safe” could wreak havoc on our constitutional system, if calmer heads don’t work to quell the zealots wanting to turn America into a virtual police state, all to stop the spread of this virus.  It’s a bit surreal that a “health emergency” has brought out the inner totalitarian instincts among so many of the political class.

Trump, many Dems and many in the media latched onto this crisis as another spin theme to use to advance their political agendas, which has left me even more disgusted with the media and partisans.  I find this new scorched earth spin theater even more appalling than the others, because each day, their spin crap is played out as the death count of Americans succumbing to this virus climbs.  They’re playing their spin antics as thousands of Americans are dying and millions others are suffering extreme hardship and possible financial ruin… but hey, the partisan spin war rages on, regardless.  Trump has been using his daily COVID-19 briefings to get his daily fix of bantering with the media, while Gov. Cuomo, wallows in the media spotlight, as sort of pop culture shrink talking New Yorkers and liberals through each day… while also bolstering his political stature among Democrats.  Pelosi and Schumer continue their sleazy political power plays advancing pet Democrat projects and agendas, even holding up legislation to help millions of suffering Americans, so that their special interests get millions of dollars in federal hand-outs. Pelosi and Schumer give new meaning to being political grifters… 25 millions dollars to the Kennedy Center, for crying out loud.  Most Americans will never attend a single event at the Kennedy Center.

My daily life changed just a little bit.  I had gotten used to having the 3 nurse visits and 3 CNA visits every week to help with my husband’s care, but that all changed with COVID-19.  The home hospice provider stopped CNA visits, unless the caregiver can’t mange the daily care.  And the nurse comes for one visit a week and the other 2 visits are phone calls.  My husband’s nurse told me, they might begin doing home visits once every two weeks soon.  The only other inconvenience has been grocery shopping amidst so many out of stock items, which made me realize just how spoiled I am with so many modern conveniences.

Other than that, I have started sewing cotton fabric face masks for family and neighbors and my husband’s nurse said the other nurses could use some, when I showed her the ones I had made already.  So, I am sewing some to give her next week for the other hospice nurses.  If I get more sewn after that, I’ll donate some to the local hospital.  In my garage I have about a dozen or so large plastic tote containers of cotton fabric, intended for the quilting hobby I never got around to yet.  It felt good washing, pressing and cutting out some face masks with some of this nice cotton quilting fabric.  I ran out of thin elastic and have some on order, but it’s going to take two weeks, but YouTube came to the rescue. I watched a face mask video where the lady recommends cutting up old t-shirts into 1 inch strips.  You just pull those strips and the strips curls into round ties that can be cut into ties for the face masks.  The t-shirt ties work just fine.  Working on this small face mask project, as I have time, feels good.  It sure feels better than watching even a minute of the spin war garbage. 

I miss doing volunteer work.

 

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The number that matters most

Gradually, I think President Trump is starting to realize that  COVID-19 is about more than how the “numbers” impact his reelection effort.  Unfortunately, it’s likely all of us have friends or family who aren’t taking the COVID-19 health emergency seriously and they will continue to go about their lives, doing whatever they want, regardless that they might spread this virus to many other people.

The numbers that worry me are how many COVID-19 hospitalizations in communities around the country might overtax hospital systems.  The US is still in the midst of flu season, which has resulted in many hospitalizations and deaths.  Hospitals around the country have only so many ventilators and so many ICU beds, so hopefully our crisis leadership at all levels is carefully assessing the numbers of ventilators in hospitals, the number of ICU beds and planning for the worst case scenario.  If we plan for worst case and it doesn’t happen, the greater the likelihood we will be able to avoid unnecessary deaths, which is the number that matters most.

David French wrote a very heartfelt piece, Coronavirus and Our Sacred Duty to Senior Citizens,  about our moral duty to protect and care for those most vulnerable to COIVD-19, but he hits on something more we must do:

“But we must do even more. We must defend those we love from fraud and fear. And by fraud I don’t merely mean the standard array of scammers and hucksters who typically prey on our nation’s seniors. I mean defending them from terrible counsel from the very people so many millions of seniors trust.

I’ve written at length about the inexcusable avalanche of misinformation that for weeks cascaded out of the Oval Office and conservative media. I won’t repeat all of the false comparisons of COVID-19 to the flu or the common cold, all the president’s false declarations that the virus was already diminishing or thoroughly under control, or the claims that hyping the virus was yet another media conspiracy to undermine the president. But that misinformation was delivered to an audience that was disproportionately older and disproportionately likely to disbelieve contrary information.

The president’s declaration of emergency and the joint public/private show of force at Friday’s White House press conference should at least start to dispel the belief held by all too many seniors that there was nothing to worry about, that they shouldn’t change their plans. After all, the person and the information sources they trust the most had told them this entire crisis was overblown. The result is stories like this:

America’s toxic partisan spin war, where competing “narratives” outweigh common sense and common decency, makes it very hard to figure out facts, analyze information through the clouds of noxious spin being churned out by bleating gasbags on both sides and it leaves many Americans vulnerable to making poor personal decisions based on deliberately dishonest partisan spin. The spin warriors score cheap political points at the expense of the welfare of ordinary citizens, who tune into American media in hopes of being informed. 

With the corona virus pandemic, I’ve watched what’s being reported out of foreign countries and the numbers.  The serious concerns and dramatic actions taken by many countries to stop the spread aren’t all reacting to American political spin. I suspect their health experts and intelligence agencies are providing information to these governments, which has raised the alarm level.  President Trump has taken dramatic action on travel restrictions, while at the same time blathering on and on repeating garbage right-wing pundit spin takes, downplaying the situation.  He is the champion at mixed messaging or in common parlance, talking out of both sides of his mouth.  Numerous Trumper pundits, like Rush Limbaugh, have been blustering on for weeks about how COVID-19 is no more serious than the common cold.  Many elderly conservatives believe this and will not listen to any warnings now.

Everyone comes at how they view this situation from their own experiences, beliefs and knowledge base.  My husband’s sister died a year ago from a viral infection she contracted.  Another sister, got sick at the same time, as did some other family members.  The sister who died, got very ill very quickly.  She did have some underlying health issues and she didn’t seek medical care immediately, believing it was just some bug that would pass.  Several days into it, she was taken to the ER, but she deteriorated rapidly in the ICU (pneumonia that led to multiple organ failure).  Within a week from getting sick, she died.

My husband has late stage COPD and he got much worse in late January, after catching some bug.   I also developed an upper respiratory infection after he got very ill.  I recovered, but he is now on home hospice care and completely bed bound.  We have hospice nurses and CNAs, who make home visits several times a week to manage his care, but the rest of the time I am learning how to adjust to handling  full-time hospice care.  I have diabetes and heart problems.  This corona virus definitely raised my worry level immediately, because I was already trying to keep my husband and myself away from exposure to a lot of people.  The “social-distancing” was already the new normal for me since January.

A couple weeks ago, when I heard about possible supply issues with medications due to America being reliant on drugs from China, I checked our prescriptions and got 90 day refills on all the ones I could.  When other countries started doing lockdowns and restricting travel, I  began stocking up on groceries and essentials (truthfully stockpiling grocery basics is something I do ordinarily.) That’s me – the worrier.  I did not have to go out this weekend for the mad shopping panic, because I have been stocking up a bit more than my usual stockpiling, for more than a month.  I have some family members though, who are pretty much blowing off COVID-19 as just media hysteria.

Recently, I read Radical Inclusion: What The Post 9/11 World Should Have Taught Us About Leadership by General Martin Dempsey and Ori Brafman.  The major theme of their book is about how crucial radical inclusion, making everyone in a group feel included and that their contributions and efforts matter is the crucial leadership challenge, especially in our rapidly changing digital information age.  In dealing with a global pandemic, we need leaders, at home and abroad, embracing this radical inclusion mindset and realize that we, or people near and dear to us, are at risk from COVID-19 and the many ways this pandemic can impact lives.

Of course, we all need to carry on with living our lives, but we can still try to be aware that other people’s very lives may depend on mitigation efforts taken now, before this virus spread peaks or devastating outbreaks overwhelm some of our hospital systems around the country.

We should all do what we can to help those around us.

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