Thursday, November 26, 2020

Brace Yourselves

Mom, Ray, and I are spending Thanksgiving apart from our kids and their families, extended family, and friends who traditionally join us for dinner. We’re doing this because we love them all so, and we want everyone to be Covid-safe, so that next year, we can gather to celebrate our passage through this unbelievable year. We’ll Zoom today, so we can chat and/or watch each other cook, and so the little kids can tell us—for an unnatural length of time without taking a breath—more than we ever hoped to know about Mario Bros or Seven Deadly Sins or EllieV's bizarre YouTube Lego life.

Here’s a little Thanksgiving poem from our family to yours. It was published this year in an anthology, South Dakota in Poems, edited by South Dakota Poet Laureate Christine Stewart, which you can buy here (supporting and giving thanks for the South Dakota State Poetry Society): South Dakota in Poems

       a South Dakota Thanksgiving 

The turkey will be spatchcocked, splayed 
like a fallen Pilgrim. Potatoes will be rough-mashed,
with polkadots of peel and enough garlic & rosemary
to ward off vampires. Grandma will find a way to work
candy red hots into every dessert: green jello salad,
sweet potato pie, Eagle brand caramel pudding.
There will be no stuffing. There will be serious talk
of lutefisk and lefse, hot dishes, bars, Mrs. Larson’s
prizewinning crabapple jelly. There will be a few
passing remarks about religion and politics, and no one
will disagree. Uncle Boots will flip out his dentures
for the kids and tell Ole and Lena jokes. The register
of our combined knee-slapping guffawing will wake
the night-shift neighbors. The Trolls movie will play
in the living room, and we will all stop to sing along,
dramatically and with hand gestures, to “True Colors.”
Grandkids will sweetly play until, fully-amped
on pudding and jello, they will turn Mr. or Ms. Hyde,
baring teeth & claws, upturning furniture, snapping
heads off Barbies, trampolining on perfectly relaxed,
napping bellies. Something will be broken beyond repair.
Someone will get hurt. Someone will sneak off to hide
in the quiet basement. And as we’re putting on our coats
to leave, we will all give true & serious thanks—
that we have each other, 
that we made it out alive,
that it’s over until next year.

In Quarantinesgiving, you can have corndogs for dinner if you want.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Let Us Give Thanks

Covid surges on here in South Dakota. According to Johns Hopkins, we’re the #2 WORST state in the nation in terms of our Covid cases, ranking behind #1 North Dakota. Our governor Kristi Nope, Nightmare Noem, Plague Princess (I have more names for her I can’t put in here) said in a press conference yesterday that it was never the intention of the State Department of Health to make mitigation decisions for the state based on the rate of infections, deaths, stress on frontline workers, and those other nasty metrics HUMANS think about. No, Sir. Her priority has always been hospital capacity. In other words, as long as hospitals have beds (at least on paper, even if that means NICU bed space, children’s hospitals, etc.), we’ll have our glorious FREEDUMB from those unattractive masks, and we can just keep fillin’ up those beds! Yeehaw!

In slightly less bitter news, I tested negative—YAY!! After waiting a week for results from test #1, I got an email saying my test was “incomplete” and I would need to re-test. No explanation. So I’m guessing it was a bad test kit, or it’s under a pile of mail in an Idaho post office, or a completely exhausted lab tech dropped it and it rolled into a floor drain. Fortunately, my Little Town U stepped up and offered testing, so I re-tested and got results in 3 days. It wasn’t an antibody test, so by then, I could have had asymptomatic (except for the 7-day headache) Covid and recovered. So much for the testing/tracing efficiency of the U.S. pandemic [non]response.

It's the end of our weird semester here in Little Town, so that means the Great Grading Abyss. It’s like Dante’s nine circles of hell, except not as comfy, and it’s where I’m living now. Ray bought me a giant computer monitor, and I replaced my reading glasses with blue-light-blocking computer readers. Still, I squint like a mole, and my eyeballs feel like Saharan stones. My daily wardrobe starts with an Icy Hot patch on the back of my neck. I piled another cushion on my home office chair, and I added two full-spectrum lights to my workspace. Still, I’m pale as buttermilk (which sounds good right now, since I’ve been living on my office stash of biltong and pumpkin seeds). My weekly Zoom “office hours” with students require me—someone who’s never worn makeup—to slather enough concealer on my eyebags to pave a driveway. Even lipstick can only make me look approaching human. No matter what top I’m wearing, it’s always paired with black sweatpants. If you’re teaching remotely and/or on Zoom much, you know what I mean.

You can't even see the Icy Hot patch & sweatpants.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I can’t wait for the grading to let up long enough to roast a turkey. Mom, Ray, and I will dress in our finest (tops, at least), give thanks for a decent Wifi signal, and walk the iPad around the dining room table, so our kids and grandkids can see the spread—just like the Pilgrims did. Then we’ll put the iPad on a tripod, and we’ll all dig in on camera, from our respective quarantines.

In not-bitter-at-all seriousness, we have SO MUCH to be thankful for this holiday season: each other, the health and kindness of family and friends, the dedication and sacrifice of frontline caretakers (healthcare folks, grocery store staff, gas station staff, child care folks, school staff, and so many others), Dr. Fauci, people who wear masks and respect a 6’ social distance, our Covid canaries Otto and Sylvia and their beautiful, magical singing, the election results, toilet paper, tomatoes from our garden still ripening in the basement in November, music, art, and poetry. And coffee. LOTS of coffee. Back to the 5th circle…

Friday, November 13, 2020

Don't worry; I've got all the answers.

It’s been six days since I was tested for the Big Bug. I still don’t have my results. I've not had a fever, but I've had a fairly constant headache for about 5 days now, possibly caused by Covid/grading non-stop at a computer screen between Advil doses/stress/lack of strong enough coffee/-45's unwillingness to LEAVE ALREADY. While I wait impatiently, I thought I’d tell you everything I know about this pandemic: 

It's called Covid-19. Corona Virus. Unique Corona Virus 19. The ‘Vid. The ‘Rona. The Plague. 

You get it from breathing near an infected person. Plus, you get it from groceries. And countertops. And mail. No, you get it from singing. No, you can GIVE it to someone by coughing on them, but you can’t get it by being coughed upon. You get it from sex. You can’t get it from sex. You get it from petting someone’s infected dog. You can’t get it from touching things. You get it from unprotected punnery. You get it from breathing. You don’t get it from the air. 

Masks make all the difference. Masks don’t work. Masks protect you. Masks only protect other people FROM you. People with asthma can/can’t breathe through masks. Masks protect you from people breathing on you. Masks do/don’t protect you from people singing/laughing/talking/sneezing/coughing/reciting poetry near you. Masks don’t make any difference. Kids and teens won’t/will wear masks. Wear a mask at home. Wear a mask only when you leave home. Wear a mask only when doing dishes or using spackle. Fabric masks are the best. Fabric masks don’t work unless they have 17 layers. T-shirt-knit masks don’t work. We’re providing all employees with free T-shirt-knit masks. You don’t deserve/need an N95 mask. N95 masks are the only kind that work. 

We need to protect everyone. We need to cull the weak anyway. We need to protect the most vulnerable. Babies are immune. Children are immune. No one is immune. Everyone who gets Covid will die. Only old people die from Covid. It’s only lethal if you’re overweight. Fat people should have taken better care of themselves. Old people should have taken better care of themselves. Teenagers are superspreaders. Republicans are superspreaders. People with an “X” in their names are superspreaders. People with the red hair gene mutation are superspreaders. College kids don’t care about their own health. College kids don’t care about endangering others. Herd immunity is a bad idea. Herd immunity is the only solution. Herd immunity will save/kill people. 

Symptoms may appear 0-14 days after exposure to the virus. Symptoms appear within minutes/days/weeks/decades after exposure. You do/don't/can/can't have the virus without symptoms. After exposure, you should quarantine for 0-365 days. After exposure, you can go back to school/work/choir practice until/unless you develop a fever/chills/diarrhea/cough/boils/an unexplainable ability to play the bassoon. 

You should get tested immediately after exposure. You should get tested 3-5 days after exposure. You should not waste a test just because you might have been exposed. You should get tested every/every other/every seventh day. You should save the tests for people who really need them. You’ll get your results immediately. You’ll get your results once you’ve had plenty of asymptomatic time to infect many, many others. You’ll get your results once they admit you to the hospital. You’ll get your results once you’ve recovered and have gone back to work. You won’t get your test results. You’ll get a call from the CDC/ your state’s Department of Health/America’s Got Talent. 

If you want to know anything else about the pandemic, just let me know. I’m pretty sure I can answer all your questions.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

The Covid Comes Home

Hello, Covid-19!

It’s been almost eight months now, and the Covid finally found us. 

We’ve been uber careful, since my mother, who lives with us, is 84 and has cancer. We don’t go anywhere except the grocery store—masked and careful to social distance as much as possible, amid freedumb loving, virus-denying idjits who invade our 6’ bubbles. South Dakota is a hotbed of the ‘Rona right now. We might even lead the country in positive cases per day per capita. That’s partly because our governor—cozying up to Dump with her eye on a Republican power position—refused to shut down our state, issue a mask mandate, or otherwise protect South Dakotans. 

AND, Ray still had to go to work. Don’t get me wrong—I’m grateful and acknowledge our incredible luck and privilege that we both kept our jobs through this. HOWEVER, it IS most likely the reason Covid got in our house. Ray was exposed at work to a co-worker who, along with the co-worker’s wife, tested positive. They all worked together in an enclosed space, and most didn't bother with those pesky masks.

In spite of the positive test, and for a variety of ridiculous reasons that include (1) a governor who’s on the “herd immunity,” you-can’t-take-our-freedumb train, and (2) corporate desire to keep profit margins up after the initial Covid money ran out that would have covered employee home quarantines, Ray’s employer—a major HEALTHCARE SYSTEM (dear gawd the irony)—told everyone who’d been exposed to keep coming to work until/unless they developed symptoms. And, they couldn’t get tested by the HEALTHCARE SYSTEM until/unless symptoms. 

He finally went to Walgreen’s, of all places, to get tested. It was negative. Then 3 days later, he was sick. Tested again (local hospital this time since he DID have symptoms), and FIVE DAYS LATER he got the results. It was pos, of course, and by then, he’d been sick a week if you don’t count the 3-4 days before that when he felt “off.” Last I heard, at least ten people at his job had tested pos. Speaking of testing, testing in the U.S. is a sham and an embarrassment. We don't work to prevent the spread in this country, we test after-the-fact and hope for enough hospital capacity. 

Mom and I got tested today (at HyVee drive-thru, since no clinic or hospital would test us without symptoms), and I’d say our chances of having it are good. We’ll know in 3-5 days. I’ve stocked the freezer with turkey pot pies in case I don’t feel good enough to cook and someone still has an appetite. 

Doing a little house cleaning while we're stuck at home.

In the meantime, I’ll do what I always do—write about it. So far, Ray’s symptoms have included days when he runs a fever of 100+ off and on, days with no fever, body aches, extreme fatigue, loss of appetite/taste/smell (these didn’t come on until this past Wednesday), and congestion. It’s like if the cold and the flu had a BIG UGLY BABY. 

He’s quarantined at home now—no contact from the CDC or SD Dept. of Health, no contact tracing, no word on when he can go back to work. Someone told me 72 hours after he no longer has any fever. Someone else told me 10 days from the start of symptoms. Someone else told me 24 hours after he can spin 12 plates on a yardstick without dropping any. Who knows. 

I just got word Biden won. I feel like on top of the 'Rona, we've been traumatized by the past four years, the whole election cycle, and 2020 in general. I feel like crying with joy and relief. Like sleeping for a week. Like lining up shots of tequila. At least now this country (and South Dakota) might finally get our Covidducks in a row and get that giant quack out of the White House.