Election Connection: 13 Weeks: A Biden Covid Response with Ron Klain

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The following video features Ron Klain, a member of the Biden campaign. In addition to his current role with the campaign, he is a two time Vice Presidential Chief of Staff (Al Gore (1995-1999), and Joe Biden (2009-2011). He is a lawyer and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Byron White as well as a Capitol Hill counsel.

He served as the Ebola Reponse Coordinator from 2014-2015 and has been an outspoken critic of the Trump Administration’s response to the Covid-19 virus which has, as of this writing, killed more than 150,000 people in the U.S.

For a time, he co-hosted a podcast addressing these concerns with Dr. Celine Gounder.

On a personal note, when I’m asked when I’ll be taking a vaccine (how soon after it’s ready), my answer is always, “When this guy [Ron Klain] says it’s safe.

The following video was made for the Biden campaign and outlines what a President Biden would do to curb the ongoing virus and epidemic.

I Miss…..

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The five things I miss the most during pandemic lockdown are simple things; things I’ve taken for granted or didn’t realize how much I enjoyed them until they were gone. I’m looking forward to having them back.

  1. Chinese food.
  2. Sitting in Starbucks or any restaurant alone with my computer and writing.
  3. Strolling through Target rather than rushing through to only get the necessities.
  4. In person mass and in person therapy, although online/phone do have their positives also.
  5. My retreat house.

Five things I’m tired of:

  1. McDonald’s.
  2. Eating in the car.
  3. The overtaking of cans and bottles in my house and garage because the recycling centers at the supermarket are closed.
  4. The phrase, “What’s for dinner?”
  5. Empty shelves for toilet paper and soap.

In the Midst of Loss

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My retreat house recently began to offer some limited online experiences. The first one that I explored was about the losses we’ve confronted during this pandemic since March. This was a two hour session, split into two days one month apart. I know the presenter, Father K, through other classes and workshops I’ve taken through the Diocese. He’s a local priest who also works in the area of mental health and I really enjoy the way he approaches things. He also reminds me of my therapist. At the end of the first hour, I thought I had been given an extra therapy session this month! It really was a comforting hour that led me to spend the next twenty-four hours deep in thought. For the first time in a long time, I felt calm and thoughtful but also, in a way invigorated.

To start out, he asked us to think about the losses we’ve faced since March, and to write them down, and then to share a couple of them with the group. I was one of the first called on, and for me that meant that I hadn’t any time to prepare what I might say. I had a list, but it felt superficial. I began with a pseudo-apology; something that many of us do on a daily basis, especially women. That isn’t to say that men don’t do it, but women, I’ve found are the primary apologists for things they aren’t at fault for. For example, have you ever had someone walk into you on the street or in a store, and you apologize to them? I do this almost every time. Women apologize for taking up space, for taking too long, for a myriad of things that men just don’t apologize for, and really, that we shouldn’t apologize for.

I began by saying that I was fortunate that my family and I haven’t lost anyone to covid and we haven’t been ill, minimizing what we have been going through, and that while it hasn’t been life-threatening (so far) it has also not been easy for our family. My husband already works from home, so we continued receiving our salary. I feel guilty. All of my losses come from a place of privilege and I feel it’s my obligation to add the disclaimer of our privilege even while trying to be honest with the emotional and mental toll this pandemic crisis has put upon us. I mentioned a few things that we have lost since March, and as I listened to the others share their losses. I was reminded of things that I hadn’t thought of as losses and I added them to my list as well.

At the close of this part, Father K said what I already knew (and I’m paraphrasing): whatever I’m going through is just as valid as the next person. Their struggle may seem more difficult, harder to get through, having more emotional value, but my losses are still just that: my losses. These are the losses that I’m feeling every day; that my family is feeling every day and I shouldn’t dismiss them because someone else has had a more challenging time than I have; whose struggle appears more difficult or more painful.

My losses are real, and this session allowed me to accept that and confront the actual loss and how I can move forward.
What are the losses that I don’t feel measure up to others’ losses?

The loss of time. What day is it? Even trying to tell time based on a favorite television show has been eliminated with the shutdown of Hollywood and all the global acting studios. Anything that wasn’t completed before March 17th ceased production; how many season finales were postponed? How many cliffhangers left hanging? On March 31, more than one friend mentioned how long March had been. March was a year long. I felt it in my soul. Would April also be a year long?

The loss of routine. School was canceled for my kids, but their schoolwork continued. They slept until nine, did some work, took naps, grazed all day or skipped meals. We were eating breakfast at ten in the morning, and dinner at nine at night, bedtime after eleven even on a “school night”. Haphazard doesn’t scratch the surface of our “new routine”. The kids’ independent learning and creating their own schedule seemed to be working, but at what cost?

Mass was canceled, and it took a few weeks to get the livestreaming set up, so at least now I know when Sunday is. All of my spring retreats were postponed at first, then canceled entirely. Therapy moved to the phone. Meetings canceled or moved to Zoom. If school and work were gone, was there even a weekend to look forward to?

The loss of being lazy. That’s wrong and a little harsh on myself. It’s more the loss of choice. It could also fall under the loss of routines. If I didn’t feel like cooking, we couldn’t just go out to dinner. Even if we did takeout, the restaurants closed about two hours earlier than normal. Menus needed to be planned so groceries could be shopped for in a way that minimized our leaving the house and coming in contact with other people. Planning every meal. Having food for the kids to eat lunch when they would normally eat lunch in school.

The loss of of seeing and hugging my adult son. We barely saw him. He came by once every two weeks until I was exposed to covid, and then he stayed away until my fourteen day isolation was completed. He’s an essential worker and a first responder, and even if he wasn’t I wouldn’t want to expose him to something that we still know so little about. Fortunately, I did not have covid. We eventually had our family Easter dinner.

The loss of myself. I stopped being me. I had to become the covid expert. I had to tell everyone to wash their hands every time they came home from school (before the lockdown) or the grocery store after. The one time my husband needed to go into the office, it was half an hour of discussion weighing the pros and cons, and how to do it safely. I had to know how much toilet paper we needed and go shopping with all the others preparing for their own lockdown. I had to educate people about this virus and call out misinformation because if I didn’t do it, who would? I became teacher again.

And the burden that I put upon myself led to the loss or permanent change in status with some friends. It’s hard to maintain the reciprocal, balanced relationship with people when their fundamental values are so at odds with mine, like wearing a mask and isolating or simply the basic idea that covid was made in a lab somewhere to ruin the President’s term of office.

Some losses that others in the group brought up that resonated with me included the loss of purpose and the safety and peace of mind that I’d had from only a week before; the loss of trust especially in the authority of the federal government to take care of something so catastrophic as this and which they ignored so much and let us fall so far, and of course, the loss of the Eucharist and the rituals of mass, so much a part of my life.

I craved the Eucharist, but when the opportunity arrived to return to in person masses, I decided against going, and I surprised myself that as those in the pews received their communion while I was at home watching the livestream, I felt just as close as if I’d been there and received it in my hand and consumed it. I credit my parish and my priest for giving me that feeling of belonging and even though I wasn’t there in front of him and others, I was still present and G-d was still present for me. That was a good thing.

In the midst of the losses, there have been some gains, some good things to reflect on. What was good about this time as lockdown comes to a close? The last question asked in the session was how do we find joy in the confusion and the chaos? These are things I need to meditate on, to think about and discover the answers to. Reflecting more on the losses I’ve documented above and move toward accepting and then moving forward to finding the joy is a thing I want to work on between now and the next group meeting. I want to acknowledge the gains; find my joy.

In the coming days, I’ll share the one day back in March that kept me going, and then hopefully after that I can answer the question: how do we find the joy? At the moment, I don’t know, but I hope to find out.

“Friday” Food. June. Summer Salad

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Summer Salad, photo taken by my daughter. (c)2020

I’ve put Friday in quotation marks since today is Wednesday and this Friday Food is a few weeks late. It didn’t seem appropriate to continue with business as usual last week. I’m slowly returning to writing and publishing.

I mentioned in my recent quarantine and baking piece that my daughter had some assignments from her FACS (Family and Consumer Sciences) class during the remote learning part of the school year. In my day, I say in my best Grandpa Walton voice, we had Home Economics and we cooked and sewed aprons. Same, she replied.

The recipe she wrote, shopped for and prepared was this delicious Summer Salad. She may have called it Strawberry Chicken Salad, but I can’t remember. It was easy and overall not too expensive. I let her get whatever she wanted for it since it was a school project and didn’t complain about the price. Besides, once she took her photos, she would be serving it to the rest of the family for lunch, much better than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or frozen waffles that we usually scrounge up during the week.

Ingredients and Directions:

1 pkg. boneless, skinless chicken tenders. Cook in a skillet with olive or peanut oil, seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, no more than 1 tsp. of each.

1 head of lettuce or 1 bag of mixed greens

1 container of grape tomatoes

(You can add one cucumber, but I honestly can’t remember if we did. I happen to love cucumbers!)

1 lb. strawberries

1 pint blueberries

Freshly shaved parmesan cheese

Croutons

Dressing – I chose honey mustard. (My daughter actually doesn’t use any dressing.)

Mix the salad together, add your favorite dressing and enjoy a light and satisfying lunch!

Enjoy!

Inspire. June.

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Lilacs. (c)2020

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.

John Quincy Adams

This pandemic has taken, but for those of us continuing to live through it, it has also given. More time with our families. More time to think of our priorities, our spirituality, our blessings, and our failings.

As President Adams said above, this pandemic has brought patience and perseverance to all of us in varying degrees of success. We all have both despite having different levels of both, and through it all, in whatever way we are and we can, we are moving through it and adapting.

It is ever with us.

Wear your mask.

Keep your distance.

We’re all in this together.

Be well.

Patience. Perseverance.

Mental Health Monday – Re-opening Stress

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​I’ve kind of put this off for most of the day. I didn’t intentionally procrastinate. I did need to get groceries, and I suppose I could have not bribed my son to come with my by promising him a trip to the bagel shop and Starbucks for a frappechino, but I did. And while I do really need to sit down and finish my lesson plan for RCIA next Sunday and contact the printer for the handouts (that need to be mailed since we’re meeting by Zoom), I still really did not intentionally put this off. There were also people WRONG ON THE INTERNET that I needed to take care of.

It is true that this Mental Health Monday comes at the beginning of the last week for us in New York for NY Pause. While the entire state won’t be opening up, and the emergency orders are still in effect, the formal Pause expires on Friday, and I honestly don’t know how I feel about that. It gives me stress just thinking about it. That is partly because I will continue to isolate at home, as will my family; I will continue to wear a mask when I go out, and I will stay six feet away from you, and I will expect you to stay six feet away from me. Being cautious doesn’t make me paranoid. After all, sometimes they really are out to get you.

Seriously though, the stress associated with opening up the states is almost as viscerally debilitating as closing them down was in the first place.

My main advice to you is the same that I’m giving myself: Take it slow. If you’re not ready to go to the store when everyone else is there, don’t go. I can tell you that there is food on the shelves. Today when we went they didn’t have everything I wanted but I just picked alternatives, like in pasta – cavatappi instead of penne, thin spaghetti instead of angel hair. They didn’t have Bertolli’s pasta sauce but they did have Prego. Meats were all on sale and we got everything we came for. The only thing we didn’t get that was on our long list was Alfredo sauce. 

My church is still livestreaming on Facebook Live four times a week. If they came back on Sunday, I would still not attend. If you’re not comfortable, there is no reason for you to go to the building for your worship service. There are appropriate alternatives.

If you’re working from home, see if you can extend that. 

If you’re in a house, get outside once a day. You don’t have to go anywhere – just breathe in the fresh air. Of course, if it’s snowing, like it was here in New York on Saturday, maybe avoid that. If you’re in an apartment, go for a drive. I will take a drive at least once a week (and not go through a drive through) just for a change of pace.

Go to bed earlier than usual. Turn off the electronics, get away from the internet and social media, take a quiet half an hour before sleeping. I may have mentioned that I’ve been sleeping with an eye mask. The light pressure of it has a way of calming me down for sleep, which surprised me, but it seems to work for me; maybe it will work for you.

Share some of your coping and stress relievers in the comments so we can all benefit from each other. We are all in this together.

Domestic Violence and Abuse

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Nine years ago today, my friend was murdered by her ex. Up until that point, I was mostly unaware of the enormous domestic violence problem we have in this country.

I was unawware that 1 in 3 people are abused in their relationships.

I was unaware that women go to jail more for defending themselves against their partners than their partners do for abusing them.

I was unaware that I was part of the problem by not believing my friend when she did talk about her experiences in our mutual friend circles.

I was unaware.

We can no longer live in the darkness of ignorance; of platitudes; of living in our own bubbles.

If you know someone who is being abused, reach out. They may not accept your overtures, but they’ll know that you will be there when they are ready.

If you are being abused, there is help.

Contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-700-7233 or (TTY) 1-800-787-3224

or online at The Hotline

In New York State, there are new options available related to an uptick (30% higher in this past April than in April 2019) in the domestic abuse incidents and reports since our pandemic related isolation began.

Coronavirus and Domestic Violence (NY Times)

New Yorkers in Need of Help or Assistance Can Text 844-997-2121 

or Can Go to the New Confidential Online Site to Reach a Professional on http://www.opdv.ny.gov

Office of Prevention of Domestic Violence in NY

Mental Health Monday – Mental Health Awareness Month

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

Each Monday from now until the second week in June will be the Mental Health Monday series with suggestions, resources, and coping tools. I would love for you to share what works for you in the comments, and I can gather them together for a future post for others.
It is more important than ever to be aware of our mental health, what triggers we face, and how to cope and overcome some of the difficulties.

Awareness is especially relevant in today’s world while we struggle through this unprecedented global pandemic with new surprises popping up every day in all aspects of our lives.

Today, instead of working on a more detailed first post, I was taking care of my own mental health, enjoying Star Wars with my family, eating comfort food (Kraft Macaroni & Cheese), praying the rosary, seeing my son for the first time in a long time, and most importantly, ignoring Twitter. Sometimes you just need to know when to stop and step away, and for me, that was today.

I have three resources to offer you today:

NAMI – National Association of Mental Illness

My own COVID-19 Mental Health and Crisis Information During the Pandemic Post
Wil Wheaton – he is very open about his depression and anxiety and many of his personal essays are helpful, even if only for knowing that you are not alone.

Not So Free Comic Book Day

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​The first Free Comic Book Day took place in 2002, and has been held on the first Saturday in May since then. We’ve gone every year, once being the first in line at our comic store. We’ve sometimes driven to several comic stores in one day, not just for the free aspect of the comic book day, but visiting other small business comic stores to offer our support. We’ve seen the Batmobile, we’ve met artists (John Hebert) and writers, we’ve had our photos taken with superheroes! 

In 2002, we had one child, and he was five. He is now the oldest of three, and just turned twenty-three. We are all sad that this year’s event is indefinite. Unfortunately, 2020’s celebration has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic amid global isolation requirements.

While we can’t celebrate in person at our favorite comic stores, we can still find some time to sit down with our favorite freebies from last year or the year before. During these uncertain times, we’ve still “visited” our local comic store weekly for curbside service to pick up bagging and boarding supplies, older comic books that we’ve missed, and simply saying hi and supporting our local, small business. The owner is equally happy to see us as we are to see him. It also gives some semblance of “normal” for our son, who, while he inherited his comic love from his father, is the biggest collector in our house and really looks forward to his weekly comics.

We’ve been told that new comics will be shipping to receive in store on Wednesday, May 20th. We will see what our local guidelines are for re-opening, but if not open, we will still be able to get our new comics curbside.

The FCBD website promises downloadable color sheets in the future so check there now and then until they’re available. 

In the meantime, take a blank sheet of paper of tear a lined page out of a spiral notebook, and write, illustrate, decorate your own comic book cover. Enjoy the reading, and add your name to their e-mailing list so you’re the first to find out when Free Comic Book Day will be held this year!

Can’t wait to see you, hopefully soon!