Come Visit Me at Medium!

April 2019
I'm finding my way as a writer, and sometimes that means exploring where and how I'm sharing my writing. I started writing at Medium in March, and it's been pretty amazing so far. I'm still writing here, but am over there more often, so please come see me there or visit my main page.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Ten.

 Dear Danny,

Well, it's September. It's been over four months since your birthday, and that time has gone quickly and at the same time, dragged on. We are in the midst of a global pandemic, which is something I never thought I'd be writing in a letter to you. A lot of things are happening now that we never thought of or expected. It's been hard, but we're making it through somehow, as a family.

For your birthday this year, there was just our family party this year, and you have been homebound now for over 5 months aside from visits to your other homes and the occasional walk at Lake Louise or the park. In the past few weeks, we went to IHOP and Grandma took you to Woods Coffee, and you went mini-golfing. But it was a long summer of not doing much of anything.

It's been harder emotionally for you to be without your friends and the mental stimulation school provides, but you are resilient. I wonder how you'll remember this year when you look back on it, what will stand out for you. You've been doing a lot of stream of consciousness writing, and in one of the books, during the smoke that descended on us from fires burning up and down the west coast, you wrote that it's not safe to go outside, but it already kind of wasn't because of Covid-19. I can't imagine what this whole situation looks like to someone your age.

I have had some difficult conversations with you and your brother this year, trying to teach you something about racism and political unrest. I told you about what happened to George Floyd, and I tried to help you understand at least a little bit about your privilege and how you can use it to help protect people. I don't know if I am doing all of this right, but I hope I'm making some kind of impression.

You are a whirlwind. You are not at all what I expected, but I think in some ways you're so much like me. You have big emotions, and you don't bottle them up, they fly out of you like tiny tornadoes. You cry more than Sam, mostly out of frustration when you feel unheard or like you can't effectively communicate. You are so good at everything you do that you get frustrated when you can't do something right or perfectly on the first try. Like everything, I suppose there are pros and cons to this.

Ten years in, you are still my baby. I think if you could be with me 24/7, most of that time in my lap, you would be. When I'm home, you want my attention almost all of the time. I love that you love me, and that you care for me. Last Friday when I couldn't contain my tears after hearing that Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, you hugged me and brought me Bowie (my seal stuffie), and gave me love. I still sit with you while you fall asleep at night, and you wake me up in the night sometimes to help you go back to sleep. I am tired. But I also look at it like so many other things - it's not going to be like this forever. One day you'll be more independent. To me, this is just... parenthood.

I am constantly astounded by your capacity for learning and your infinite curiosity. When I'm putting you to bed at night, you ask me questions about nebulas and other things you know more about than I do. The other night you asked me if the universe is flat (on a singular plane). I don't know the answers most of the time, and tell you to look it up the next day. 

Your piano lessons are on Zoom now, like so much else in our world. Your teacher is still amazing, and your desire to practice has ebbed and flowed, but your abilities amaze me. It seems like the pandemic has been good for piano and figuring out what motivates you and some new strategies for making practice more fun again. We missed having your spring recital, but there's going to be a virtual recital for fall, and I'm hoping by next spring we'll be able to gather and hear all of you play on the grand piano again.

Your face has changed completely since last year, it seems like you just made the transition from little boy Danny to big boy Danny, but I suppose transition is constant. You look more like me now, I see it in your cheeks and your nose, your body is getting ready for teenaged filling out and growth spurts, and I feel like time is going so quickly. I spent so much time when you were little in spaces of life where time went slowly, and now I feel like it's flying by. The other day we were out getting back to school photos by the lake, and you said "carry me," and the notion was so hilarious because I can't pick you up anymore! 

5th grade started a few weeks ago, and you've got classes on Zoom in the morning and independent working in the afternoons. You have taken to it so easily, I think you were just relieved to be in a space with your friends and teacher again even if it is a virtual one. You speak up more that I've ever heard you speak in a group setting, and I'm relieved that even if things can't be normal, they seem to be working okay. 

I don't know what the next year will hold, but I'm just so grateful that you have so much support and that we have been able to form a family bubble that provides for a little bit of variety. We are all so lucky. I'm excited to see how you are able to excel in new ways with the opportunities middle and high school will provide. I'm excited to see who you will become.

Love, Mom

Favorites!

Favorite Book:  Diary of a Surfer Villager, The Legend of Dave The Villager
Favorite Color: Red
Favorite Song:  Exile - Taylor Swift and Bon Iver
Favorite Board Game:  Fluxx, Munchkin
Favorite Video Game:  Minecraft
Favorite TV Show: The Simpsons, The Good Place
Favorite YouTubers:  Skeppy, Grian, Mumbo Jumbo
Favorite Food:  Pizza, Watermelon
Favorite Dessert: Ice Cream (Chocolate)
Favorite Thing to Do Outside the House: If there were anything, Squalicum Park 
Favorite Subject at School: PE
Best Friends:  This is 2020 we are not allowed to have friends. But, before Coronavirus, Austin and Kaden

Nine
Eight
Seven
Six.
Five.
Four.
Three.
Two.
One.
Birth Story.


Monday, September 21, 2020

Fourteen.

Dear Sam,

Well, it's September. The four months since your birthday have crawled and flown simultaneously, this birthday letter is so late. Your eighth grade year ended with a whimper, drowned out by the sounds of emergency piecemeal home schooling and quarantining. Covid-19 is going to be a defining experience for us all, and I'm not sure what the long term effects of all this will be. 

We celebrated your birthday as a family, which is all you ask for anyway. You're not one for parties or sleepovers. We had dinner with your other parents and grandma and you opened your gifts with gratitude and genuine appreciation.

Since then, you have started 9th grade in full distance-learning mode. You have classes in the mornings via Microsoft teams and work time in the afternoons. It's all very strange and different, but we are lucky to be in a school district that is doing an amazing job of creating the best possible situation for you and your classmates. Meanwhile, I'm at work wondering how you could possibly be in 9th grade already. A high-schooler.

Fourteen feels different than thirteen. Maybe I say that every year, but I always mean it. I am well into this new, strange part of my journey as a parent, and I still don't feel prepared. I don't always know what you're thinking or feeling anymore, and I don't have all the answers. You are becoming your own person and I have to let you, but it's so hard to let go. 
I remember being your age. I remember how big my feelings were, and feeling misunderstood and powerless. When we have conversations about rules and what is fair, and you rail back hard about things that in 25 years will seem inconsequential in hindsight, and I remember being there. I try to listen and give you grace. I think you as a teenager and Danny as a 10 year old is a bit of a hard season for me as a parent. You are old enough to have some added freedoms and privileges, but I'm a little lost as to how to make it happen without it seeming unfair to him. I guess life isn't fair.


You got sick earlier this year with some sort of cold and sore throat, and your voice became froggy. I realized that we were getting a preview of what you're going to sound like someday. Recently you came out of your room one night and started speaking to me, and before you rounded the corner from the hall, I thought it was Scott. It's just another sign that you are becoming more than just my kid.

I try to imagine you in the world, a home of your own, a job, friends, interests... it's hard. For all that parents look forward to their children growing up, I feel unprepared for this new type of worrying, the kind where I can't just step in and guide you. Four years to eighteen seems like such a short amount of time. Yesterday you were a baby smaller than our pet cat, and it feels like tomorrow I'll be watching you graduate and make your first moves as Sam the young adult. 
You have blossomed as you've grown - last year we made the decision to transfer you from the IEP you've had since you were 4 to just a 504 plan. It was a huge step, and in many ways your special ed story is exactly how it's supposed to go. Because you got the support you needed, as you grew, you adapted and blossomed and learned how to advocate for yourself and figure out ways to make school work better for you. You are on the edge of that place where you start to not need your parents anymore, where you don't need them in the way you did even two or three years ago. 

You are kind, and that is one of the things I am most proud of about you. Every night when you go to bed, we exchange I-Love-Yous and you tell me to have sweet dreams. You are an introvert and a bookworm, and if you could lay under a cozy blanket and read all day, I think you'd be perfectly happy. It reminds me of the way I used to be. You still like routine and dislike transition, and I can't really blame you, I'm not much fan of change either. You spend one afternoon a week (or more) with your Grandma Edie, and I am so thankful that you both have such a close relationship with my mom. You have a lot of family, a lot of adults who love you and support you. 
I'm not sure what else to say. I've had such a hard time writing this year, with everything feeling like it's exploding into flames around here. Pandemics, social uprisings, forest fires, and political unrest. We are safe and lucky, and one day you'll look back and realize how crazy things were when you started high school. You will always be my baby, but you are not my baby anymore. I love you.
Love, Mom

Favorites!

Favorite Book: 39 Clues, Dystopian Fiction
Favorite Color: Black but people say that's not a color, so red
Favorite Song: Taylor Swift
Favorite Board Game: ?
Favorite Video Game:  Undertale?
Favorite TV Show: The Expanse
Favorite YouTubers: Hermitcraft - Grian, MumboJumbo, Bdubs, Iskall
Favorite Food:  Pizza, beans & rice, chicken nuggets, mac  & cheese (some things don't change)
Favorite Dessert: White chocolate chips, popsicles, ice cream
Favorite Thing to Do Outside the House:  Hang out w/Grandma
Favorite Subject at School: Math?
Best Friend: ?

Thirteen
Twelve
Eleven
Ten
Nine
Eight
Seven
Six
Five.Two
Five.One
Four 
Three 
Two
One
Birth Story




Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Stay Home, Stay Healthy Day 1

Today is the first day of Governer Inslee's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order. All non-essential businesses have until the end of business tomorrow to shut down.

I work at a utility, so we are an essential service, but we'll be working pared-down hours and only one office staff will work each day. We'll work from home as best we can the rest of the time. We are working today and tomorrow, then will all be working from home Thursday. Next week, we'll start our rotation and see how things go.

I have been anxious and worried, and on Friday I had my doctor fill a new prescription for Xanax because I've been having anxiety and panic attacks like I haven't had since the time during my marriage's implosion over five years ago. I am trying not to worry about what's to come, even though I feel like it's going to be very, very bad.

Yesterday when our boss explained the plan, I felt a great sense of relief. I am extraordinarily lucky to work for an employer who is doing their best to offer us maximum protection while providing our customers with the best level of service we can manage. A huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders for the time being.

This morning, I had an idea. I have been worried about our grief - I wrote on Medium about how I don't know where all of our grief is going to go. Not just for the people we will lose, but for our inability to say goodbye or to mourn in the ways we are accustomed to. Beyond that, the loss of whatever our 'normal' was, and all of the things that seem so unsure and scary right now.

I've created a space on Facebook called the Whatcom County Covid19 Memorial. I've probably bitten off more than I can chew, but it feels right in that same way that things do when I know I have something to give. I'm hoping the page will become a place for humans to connect in this time of isolation, and where we can celebrate the lives of those we lose. Right now it's still kind of wispy and dream-like, so we'll have to see where it goes.

I'm feeling a little apprehensive about being at home with my family most of the time. I don't do the best when I'm cooped up, but hopefully we'll be able to manage, and having the kids maintain their time at their other house will definitely be a saving grace for me.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Stay Home, Stay Healthy Announced

Tonight, Governer Jay Inslee announced a Stay Home, Stay Healthy order for Washington State. This means that non-essential businesses must close and everyone is to stay home. I knew it was going to happen, and in fact, I feel like it should have been done sooner.

The Covid19 numbers for Washington are still low, but I know it's only due to lack of testing. The official numbers only show 2,200 positives and 110 deaths. I wonder what the real numbers are. It's frustrating to know that everything is so inaccurate and that things are being under-reported.

As for the United States, today cases increased by 10,000 in one day. It's only going to get worse. I keep reading firsthand accounts by doctors and one doctor from my local hospital has gone very public in the media and on Facebook about how woefully unprepared we are. I am afraid for my community, afraid for all of us.  I can't stop thinking about how people are so naive, unprepared, unwilling to accept how bad this really is.

We are living through something unprecedented. I wonder in a year, five years, ten years, how we will look back on these times. I wonder what our children will remember. I wonder who will not be there to look back on it with us.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Thursday March 19, 2020

Published on Medium today: One Family’s Story Highlights the Gross Mishandling of a Pandemic

In the heart of Washington, an example of how COVID cases in the U.S. are being under-reported and unrecognized.

Eighteen days ago in Bellingham, Washington, things were still normal. 90 miles north of Seattle, our town’s slogan is The City of Subdued Excitement, and we live up to that name. At the end of February, we’d all heard of Coronavirus, but none of us had added Covid-19, shutter in-place, or PCR to our daily vocabularies. To Janet Danielson*, it was a normal Saturday.

On February 29, Janet shopped, took care of her two young children, then met up with some friends for drinks. The bar filled up like it would any Saturday night, and she went to bed content.
The day she started to feel sick, people in Seattle were starting to take notice of this new, unusual virus. Three days later, Janet started to feel sick.

Read the whole story on Medium.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Wednesday March 18, 2020

Things that happened today:


Danny took his piano lesson by video for the first time.

I shared this on Facebook:

Real Talk: It's going to get MUCH, MUCH worse before it gets better.

**Please feel free to share. When you click the share button, you must select the box to "include original post" or it will only share the link and none of the below text.**

Attached is a link where you can read the Imperial College report based on accurate infection and death rate data sets from China, Korea & Italy. It's hard to read, so I've pasted below a really good summary written on Twitter by Jeremy C. Young, an Assistant Professor of History at Dixie State University.

The best case scenario is over 1,000,000 people dead in the U.S. This is not hyperbole or an overreaction. This is based on epidemic modeling.

I'm scared. What's happening right now is disturbing, and unprecedented. Everything is different now than it was in 1918 last time this kind of illness spread. We haven't faced anything like this. Yes, it's possible something extraordinary or unexpected could happen, like the discovery of anti-virals that are effective or a miracle treatment. But it's NOT LIKELY. We need to be behaving as if it's not possible.

It's normal to be scared. We can't panic, but we also need to start preparing ourselves mentally for what we're about to go through. What's happened so far is NOTHING.

xxx

"We can now read the report on COVID-19 that so terrified every public health manager and head of state from Boris Johnson to Donald Trump that they ordered people to stay in their houses. I read it yesterday afternoon and haven't been the same since. I urge everyone to read it, but maybe have a drink first, or have your family around you. It is absolutely terrifying. The New York TImes confirms that the CDC and global leaders are treating it as factual.

Here's a brief rundown of what I'm seeing in here. Please correct me in comments if I'm wrong.

The COVID-19 response team at Imperial College in London obtained what appears to be the first accurate dataset of infection and death rates from China, Korea, and Italy. They plugged those numbers into widely available epidemic modeling software and ran a simulation: what would happen if the United States did absolutely nothing -- if we treated COVID-19 like the flu, went about business as usual, and let the virus take its course?

Here's what would happen: 80% of Americans would get the disease. 0.9% of them would die. Between 4 and 8 percent of all Americans over the age of 70 would die. 2.2 million Americans would die from the virus itself.

It gets worse. Most people who are in danger of dying from COVID-19 need to be put on ventilators. 50% of those put on ventilators still die, but the other 50% live. But in an unmitigated epidemic, the need for ventilators would be 30 times the number of ventilators in the United States. Virtually no one who needed a ventilator would get one. 100% of patients who need ventilators would die if they didn't get one. So the actual death toll from the virus would be closer to 4 million Americans -- in a span of 3 months. 8-15% of all Americans over 70 would die.

How many people is 4 million Americans? It's more Americans than have died all at once from anything, ever. It's the population of Los Angeles. It's four times the number of Americans who died in the Civil War...on both sides combined. It's two-thirds as many people as died in the Holocaust.

Americans make up 4.4% of the world's population. So if we simply extrapolate these numbers to the rest of the world -- now we're getting into really fuzzy estimates, so the margin of error is pretty great here -- this gives us 90 million deaths globally from COVID-19. That's 15 Holocausts. That's 1.5 times as many people as died in World War II, over 12 years. This would take 3-6 months.

Now, it's unrealistic to assume that countries wouldn't do ANYTHING to fight the virus once people started dying. So the Imperial College team ran the numbers again, this time assuming a "mitigation" strategy. A mitigation strategy is pretty much what common sense would tell us to do: America places all symptomatic cases of the disease in isolation. It quarantines their families for 14 days. It orders all Americans over 70 to practice social distancing. This is what you've seen a lot of people talking about when they say we should "flatten the curve": try to slow the spread of the disease to the people most likely to die from it, to avoid overwhelming hospitals.

And it does flatten the curve -- but not nearly enough. The death rate from the disease is cut in half, but it still kills 1.1 million Americans all by itself. The peak need for ventilators falls by two-thirds, but it still exceeds the number of ventilators in the US by eight times, meaning most people who need ventilators still don't get them. That leaves the actual death toll in the US at right around 2 million deaths. The population of Houston. Two civil wars. One-third of the Holocaust. Globally, 45 million people die: 7.5 Holocausts, 3/4 of World War II. That's what happens if we use common sense: the worst death toll from a single cause since the Middle Ages.

Finally, the Imperial College team ran the numbers a third time, this time assuming a "suppression" strategy. In addition to isolating symptomatic cases and quarantining their family members, they also simulated social distancing for the entire population. All public gatherings and most workplaces shut down. Schools and universities close. (Note that these simulations assumed a realistic rate of adherence to these requirements, around 70-75% adherence, not that everyone follows them perfectly.) This is basically what we are seeing happen in the United States today.

This time it works! The death rate in the US peaks three weeks from now at a few thousand deaths, then goes down. We hit, but don't exceed (at least not by very much), the number of available ventilators. The nightmarish death tolls from the rest of the study disappear; COVID-19 goes down in the books as a bad flu instead of the Black Death.

But here's the catch: if we EVER relax these requirements before a vaccine is administered to the entire population, COVID-19 comes right back and kills millions of Americans in a few months, the same as before. The simulation does indicate that, after the first suppression period (lasting from now until July), we could probably lift restrictions for a month, followed by two more months of suppression, in a repeating pattern without triggering an outbreak or overwhelming the ventilator supply. If we staggered these suppression breaks based on local conditions, we might be able to do a bit better. But we simply cannot ever allow the virus to spread throughout the entire population in the way other viruses do, because it is just too deadly. If lots of people we know end up getting COVID-19, it means millions of Americans are dying. It simply can't be allowed to happen.

How quickly will a vaccine be here? Already, medical ethics have been pushed to the limit to deliver one. COVID-19 was first discovered a few months ago. Last week, three separate research teams announced they had developed vaccines. Yesterday, one of them (with FDA approval) injected its vaccine into a live person, without waiting for animal testing. Now, though, they have to monitor the test subject for fourteen months to make sure the vaccine is safe. This is the part of the testing that can't be rushed: the plan is to inoculate the entire human population, so if the vaccine itself turned out to be lethal for some reason, it could potentially kill all humans, which is a lot worse than 90 million deaths. Assuming the vaccine is safe and effective, it will still take several months to produce enough to inoculate the global population. For this reason, the Imperial College team estimated it will be about 18 months until the vaccine is available.

During those 18 months, things are going to be very difficult and very scary. Our economy and our society will be disrupted in profound ways. Worst of all, if the suppression policies actually work, it will feel like we are doing all this for nothing, because the infection and death rates will be very low. It's easy to get people to come together in common sacrifice in the middle of a war. It's very hard to get them to do so in a pandemic that looks invisible precisely because suppression methods are working. But that's exactly what we're going to have to do.”

Study Link

Within hours, my friend provides another study suggesting this isn't accurate either. Information changes so fast and so widely that it's hard to know what's going on at all.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Tue March 17, 2020

As it's become apparent that what we are facing with Covid-19 is like nothing most of us have seen in our lifetimes, I've decided to keep a diary or log. I'm still writing at Medium, but I need a place to share random thoughts, un-hinged feelings, and some good old semi-coherent disbelief about what life has become.

Today is the 2nd day of schools being closed statewide. The kids were not excited about the closures, they'd rather be at school, and Danny would certainly rather be with his friends, especially given that I'm still working.

Tomorrow, we'll be closing our office to the public, but we'll keep working. Things change so fast, day by day, and it's hard to know what's going to be happening at the end of this week or the beginning of next week.

Today was the day I finally tipped from having a shred of optimism to just scared and unsure. Super cool! Anticipation and uncertainty are not my strong suits. I finally cried the ugly cry and it felt good. I'm trying to just remember we are all in the same boat. I miss my Kat. I miss obliviousness. I miss standing on the shore with waves lapping at my ankles rather than standing there watching all the water be sucked out to sea and waiting for the wave.