A Tale of Two Pandemics: March vs. November

I’ve been reading accounts from doctors and hospitals about just how bad things are getting in many parts of the US (and the world), and it struck me today how stark a difference this November is compared to what we were looking at in March, and how that might affect our December, January, and February.

When the pandemic first really started ballooning out of control, there was a lot of panic. There were tons of unknowns, and so people responded as if it was the end of the world. Or at least the end of the toilet paper supply chain, in any case. Did we over-react in March? Well, yeah. Justifiably so, I’d say. The stories coming out of Italy and New York City were so bleak. We wanted to make sure that didn’t happen across the rest of the world. Remember what that felt like?

Compare that to today, where a lot of people are convinced the pandemic was just a big hoax, or at the least overblown. Where masks are viewed by many as more of a political theater as opposed to an actual safety measure. Where we’ve had plenty of time to acclimate ourselves to the concept that many people will die, and suddenly deaths are relative.

(I can’t imagine using the same rhetoric people use to dismiss COVID deaths to dismiss other events in history. 9/11 killed around 3,000 people. It affected just a couple of passenger planes. By COVID reasoning, we shouldn’t be worried about that at all. After all, way more people die of heart attacks or the seasonal flu. World War II? 85 million people. So what? That’s only about 14 million deaths per year. There are 40 million abortions every year, give or take.)

Now consider that on April 1st, the US had had 209,692 cases of COVID identified. We’d had 6,476 deaths. Total. (Even a month later, we were still “only” up to 67,229.) Italy? They’d had 110,559 cases and 13,195 deaths. Those were the numbers when so many people in the nation and the world were feeling hopeless and grim.

Compare those numbers to today. The US is averaging 1,170 deaths per day. We’ve had over 250,000 total. Italy is averaging 569 deaths. Its peak was 817 per day. Granted, those are across the entire country as opposed to isolated areas, but the trajectory is exactly the same.

Remember all the people cheering for the hospital workers on their way back from their shifts each day? These days, I don’t see nearly the same sort of respect for those people. Instead, I see more disdain for the demands people wear a mask. I see more dithering about the “right to not wear a mask.”

We can know with a fair degree of certainty how many people who get COVID in the US today will die in three weeks. 1.8%. Right now we’re averaging 158,000 cases per day in America. While our current death rate is 1,170/day, three weeks from now it will be around 2,844. (You can see all the math at the link I posted there.) That’s baked in. Statistically, those deaths have already happened, as bleak as it feels to say that. Our peak so far has been 2,259 deaths per day on average. So we’re going to blow right by that, no matter what we do. And it will get much much worse unless we all start really taking it seriously.

But look around. I just don’t see anyone taking it more seriously than they’re taking it right now. Not before Thanksgiving, at least. There will come a tipping point. There has to, right? A point where finally we as a country recognize this for what it is. But I’ve been reading both CNN and Fox News regularly since the election, just to see how two sides of the country might be viewing what we’re going through. CNN gives a fair bit of credence to this. Fox, much less. They’re much more concerned with Trump’s rallies, his legal challenges to the election, and what might happen in Georgia. Yes, they cover the vaccine news, but it’s presented in a “the cure is almost here” light.

I don’t want to take hope away from anyone, and I am very happy good vaccines are in the pipeline. But that’s all the more reason to take the next few months as seriously as we can. The pandemic is running on a big portion of individual exceptionalism right now. The thought that if I do something different, it’s not a big deal, because it’s just me. I can decide to not wear a mask or go to a party or have a Thanksgiving dinner with “just a few other families,” and it’s going to be fine. But you take that approach and magnify it millions of times, and you’ve got serious problems.

In so many ways, our past determines our future. I understand why people aren’t taking COVID as seriously now. It’s more familiar. It’s been around, and so it doesn’t seem as scary. But the numbers we’re facing now would have shocked us into much more action eight months ago. I’m hoping they spur us to more action today sooner rather than later.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

My Orange Juice Approved List

Call me a purist, but when it comes to orange juice, there are only a few ways that I think you should consume it. In fact, it would be easy to assume a post like this doesn’t even need to be written. But then I come across people who are using orange juice in decidedly unapproved ways, and I just can’t remain silent. It is my obligation–no, my duty–to speak out.

Case in point: Saturday, I came into the kitchen to see one of my children eating granola. Nothing wrong there. Good old fashioned crunchy goodness, right? Except they were eating their granola . . . with orange juice. I realize a number of you still don’t quite grasp the horror. After all, multiple sugary cereal commercials reminded us all growing up that orange juice is part of a complete breakfast, right? Nothing like having some granola and maybe some sips of orange juice from a glass next to your granola.

Except this child was eating orange juice with granola. Meaning, taking a nice bowl of granola and milk. Now take out the milk and replace it with orange juice. I apologize to those of you with weak constitutions, but that child isn’t the only one with such flagrant orange juice violations. On my mission in Germany, one of my companions would make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches . . . and then dunk them in orange juice.

No, my friends. This sort of food abuse simply won’t do. What’s next? Pouring orange juice over pizza? Spaghetti and orange juice? Chocolate cake with orange juice? A tuna fish orange juice smoothie?

Not on my watch. If you want to safely consume orange juice, here are the approved ways to do so:

  • In a glass. By itself.
  • In some sort of a smoothie. This smoothie may contain fruits and possibly some vegetables if you’re feeling particularly healthy. No solids shall be added to the smoothie that is not fruit or vegetable based. Additional juices or milk is allowed, but don’t go crazy.

And that’s it. It’s a short list, so it shouldn’t be that hard to master. Any time you’re tempted to veer off the list and add something funky to your orange juice, don’t. End of story.

Friends don’t let friends abuse orange juice.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

A Socially Distant Thanksgiving

There’s a string of articles appearing online right now, saying that if you’re going to get together with family for Thanksgiving, then you all need to start quarantining . . . yesterday. I’ll be honest: I don’t think getting together with family who don’t live in your actual house is a good idea at this point, period. Denisa and I had been thinking about going down to Pennsylvania like we usually do, but in the end after discussing it with family, we all decided it just wasn’t for the best.

But what if everyone who was coming agreed to quarantine first? I don’t think that’s realistic. Working in a library and talking with public library directors across the state, I just know full well how mask usage and social distancing is being handled by different people. I would not want to rely on someone else’s definition of what “quarantine” means when it comes to this.

Now, I realize that there are many of you out there who disagree with me on this. There’s also probably a number of you thinking about getting together “just with close family,” somehow thinking that limiting it that much will be enough. However, all the research I’ve looked into on the subject indicates getting together in small groups for hours in the same indoor location is exactly the sort of setting for prime COVID spread. Sure, it might seem at first glance that if it’s just you getting together, it’s no big deal, but if you expand that “just a couple very close family members getting together” to a national level, then it becomes much more concerning.

So what will we be doing? Making Thanksgiving dinner on our own this year. Yes, it won’t be nearly as much fun as all the other Thanksgivings we’ve done, but this is one time when missing out on some fun seems worth it, when the cost if we do it another way is potentially infecting and killing our loved ones. Things are looking good for getting a vaccine more widely available in the spring. At this point, it seems to me the main goal shifts to getting through the winter in as good of shape as possible.

Kind of a downer, but I think it’s necessary this time.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

When Do You Hit Peak Family?

Sort of an introspective post today. Tomas has a little over a year and a half left until he graduates and can go on a mission. I have a niece out on a mission now, and quite a few other nieces and nephews who are already out on their own. So it’s becoming increasingly clear that this family Denisa and I have spent sixteen years putting together is going to spend the next while getting scattered to who knows where.

Which is the point of having kids. I get it. I’m not living with my parents anymore, after all. Denisa’s not even in the same country as her family. You have kids and do your best to give them a good childhood and a good base to launch themselves off into whatever it is they want to do. But it’s still definitely bittersweet. This pandemic time has been a great opportunity to spend time together as a family, and I think we’ve at least used it well for that purpose.

But it all has been reflecting back on when I was growing up, and what time of my life I’d consider “peak family,” meaning the gang was all assembled, and things were clipping along at full speed, without any slowing down for the upcoming departures ahead.

At first, I would think peak family is reached right before the oldest child heads off to college or out of the house or wherever. After all, that’s the point in time when everyone is as mature as they’re going to get when they’re all under one roof. But the more I think back on my time growing up, the more I’m not sure that’s right. Kids don’t leave the house all at once. They become increasingly independent, so that they’re out of the house on their own more and more as the years go by. School activities. Jobs. Hanging out with friends. Until this pandemic hit, Tomas was out and about as much as Denisa or I was. Maybe more. Daniela was also getting a pretty full schedule, between sports and music and time with her friends.

So is the peak earlier than that? Maybe it’s when everyone’s still mostly one unit, doing everything together at all times? In that case, it would probably come when the oldest child’s in middle school or junior high. Still too young to be left alone for long swathes of time. Especially not when there are very young children at home to be watched. Sure, they might go out to a birthday party now and then, but for the most part, it’s all for one and one for all.

But that doesn’t really feel entirely right, either. Part of the real joy of being a parent (for me) has come from watching my kids grow up. Getting glimpses of who they’re going to be when they’re adults. Younger kids have their own personalities, no doubt, but they’re also really dependent on what you want and like. Case in point: Tuesday night we let Tomas and Daniela choose what they wanted to do. Tomas played some computer games with his friends, but Daniela decided she wanted to watch a movie. “An old movie. Something really good, like His Girl Friday.” She’s really developing into a movie buff on her own. We watched “Bringing Up Baby,” and she thought it was fantastic. Because it is. Seriously.

So can you really feel like your family is at its peak when the kids are still dominated by the parents?

The more I think about the question, the more convinced I am that “peak family” is an illusion. A family is always in flux, and trying to hold on to any part of it and think of it as “Well, this is it. This is the peak, and it’s all downhill from here” isn’t just depressing. It’s wrong. But you feel like it’s right, because as a kid, your family can feel like it’s a constant. Like it’s always been there and always will be there, and so when it starts changing, that can be kind of disturbing. But as a parent, you know that it’s always been changing. First it was just Denisa and me. Then we added Tomas four years later, than Daniela four years after that and MC five years after that. Heck, even adding Ferris to the mix has been a change for our family.

And has the family I grew up with even reached its peak yet? That’s so hard to define. We’ve lost members along the way. Uncles. Step mothers. Grandparents. But we’ve also added members through marriages and births. I’m not as close to all of them as I have been in the past, but when we get together, there’s still that real bond, and social media, for all its flaws, does a pretty good job keeping us all connected.

I suppose, in the end, a family is very much like the seasons. There are definite stages to it, though there will be cold days in summer and warm days in winter, and the boundaries between those stages can really be muddled. So maybe you can have “peak autumn” and “peak spring,” but there will be other peaks in between and afterward. If you get too tied up in trying to identify which stage you’re in at any one time and worrying about it going away, then you miss out on actually enjoying where you are in the moment.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Creativity in the Time of COVID

I’m tired, folks. I know I’m not alone in the feeling, but there are definitely days that I just feel totally worn out. Like the only thing moving me forward in all of my different endeavors is the elaborate system of daily goals I’ve got worked out for myself. But there are definitely days like today, where I know I have a goal (write a blog post every weekday), and I just come up to that goal and stare at it for a good long while before I actually muster up the gumption to get it done. And that’s with something as straightforward as a blog post. (Seriously. I have so many things to say about so many different things, usually it’s not that hard to take ten minutes to jot down some ideas about something or other.)

Creative writing? Yikes. That can be really rough. When you’re already battling depression for yourself, concerns about your family, troubling news in the world, worry around your job, election results and the emotional fallout of that with your friends, trying to push forward and get 1,000 words written each day can feel daunting to say the least. Often because I’m my biggest critic. I’ll write something, and then I’ll just see all the reasons it’s bad. There are many voices in my head, and sometimes most of them are telling me to stop what I’m doing.

So yeah. Tired. And again, probably something most of you are also dealing with.

There are blog posts that I’ve started to write and just given up on, mainly because I don’t have it in me to police the comments that would come out because of them. It feels like the coward’s way out, but I have to make some concessions for my sanity.

While I’m generally pretty good at giving other people advice, in some ways I’m very bad at taking my own advice. I know I would be telling me to go easy on myself, for all the reasons I’ve already listed. But at the same time, what are my other options? I already took a few weeks off from writing at various points over quarantine. I don’t like not writing. It makes me feel like I’m failing. (In many ways, writing is like exercising. I don’t like the act itself, but it feels great to have done it each day.)

This post doesn’t have much of a point, other than to complain. Though wait. Strike that. I think my point would be to remember two things. First, that we are all going through different difficult stages of this pandemic, often at different times. We’re all getting worn out, for a variety of reasons. And at the same time, we’re also all perhaps less patient with each other than we might be under normal circumstances. This makes it doubly important to push through that knee-jerk inclination to tell people exactly what we think of what they’re doing or saying, and instead treat everyone with a softer touch.

Including ourselves.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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