COVID 19 Diary – 4/23/20

For all who say “Blue Lives Matter”…I hope you’re as furious with these privileged, entitled white folks, whose contempt for law enforcement just trying to do their jobs is just staggering, as you are with those folks who got killed for being black in public.

Imagine what would happen if a group of black people started mouthing off about their civil rights and how their taxes pay the salaries of the police officers trying to enforce a state-wide order?

And BTW? Being a “mom” does not relieve you of civic responsibility.

COVID 19 Diary – 4/21/20

I see that Harvard, with its $40 billion endowment, is getting $8.7 million in coronavirus stimulus relief, while small businesses are at risk of shuttering forever. This seems, to put it in the Latin, bass-ackwards.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, after decisions to send students home for the balance of the semester were made, Harvard, like many colleges and universities, faced pressure from students and parents, as in, “are you planning on refunding any portion of my fees?” And Harvard, like many colleges and universities, DID issue pro-rated room and board refunds for students living on campus ($4,600, or about 27% of the annual room and board fee) but continues to charge full tuition. With an undergraduate population of around 6,800 (most of whom live on campus), that’s roughly $32 million, which is a lot of money.

But now deduct the food that isn’t being purchased, the water, electricity, heat and other utilities that aren’t being consumed, and the other goods provided to or for the benefit of students as part of room and board fees (toilet paper and other paper goods, cleaning supplies associated with housekeeping, cafeterias, and classroom buildings), and that number is substantially offset. Factor in, as well, that (unlike my alma mater, Mount Holyoke College) Harvard has laid off all employees that cannot work remotely, such as custodial staff and food service workers, and that number declines to an even greater extent. So, perhaps the loss isn’t as big as initially contemplated. But still a loss – hence (presumably), the application for stimulus funds.

Harvard is a great school – probably the finest institution of higher learning in the country. I’ve spent time with Harvard students and have had the privilege of walking its campus; it is everything it’s cracked up to be, and more. It’s the polestar we hold up as the ultimate academic achievement to which we and our children can aspire, and rightly so, because people who attend Harvard tend to be brilliant on a level that most of us cannot begin to comprehend.

I could have studied 80 hours a week from the time I was 6, taken SAT prep courses starting in 7th grade, and written an essay that would have made the rocks weep, and I still wouldn’t have gotten into Harvard, and even if I had, I wouldn’t have done well, because I’m just not Harvard Smart, and I’m fine with that. I think it’s really good that there ARE people who are Harvard Smart (in fact, it would be really nice if one of them was in the Oval Office right about now).

My point is, Harvard is great. Harvard graduates have shaped this nation – people like Theodore Roosevelt and Barack Obama and Antonin Scalia and Tom Morello. Harvard has been responsible for some of the greatest research, and thought, and scholarship, of our time. We need Harvard.

I’m just not sure Harvard needs stimulus money.

Many Harvard graduates go into law, medicine, science, research, banking, consulting, government, and business, but when I say “business,” what I mean is, Fortune 500 companies, as opposed to the types of local small businesses that are hardest hit by the COVID 19 epidemic. Harvard grads aren’t opening pizza shops or hair salons or dry cleaners or the many types of businesses most people frequent as part of their daily lives. Harvard grads are the types who often go on to make or influence or benefit from the laws that help big business. They are probably not, as a group, those hardest hit by things like economic downturns or once-in-a-century pandemics that threaten to eradicate the viability of the small business model seemingly forever.

Which is why Harvard grads are able to donate generously to their alma mater, which is why Harvard has an endowment of $40 billion, which is 50 times the endowment of Mount Holyoke, which also issued a pro-rated room and board credit AND retained its entire on-site staff AND raised over $200,000 in emergency aid for students impacted by the COVID 19-necessitated relocation from campus. So it seems as though maybe Harvard could have dipped into its endowment to cover the net portion of that $32 million room and board refund (or for whatever else the $8.7 million in stimulus money was intended), what with that being less than 3/100’s of a percent of the total endowment.

Harvard is not alone in its grabbiness. Ruth’s Chris Steak House received $20 million (it has cash reserves of $86 million and furloughed most employees following COVID 19 shutdown orders), and other larger companies did, too, with the result that the $350 million fund – which was intended to help small businesses with fewer than 500 employees – is now depleted. Many seeking modest aid packages well under $100,000 were denied.

The Harvard thing is just one more sign of the times we live in, where we no longer think on a community-minded level (if, in fact, we ever did), but from a “me first” perspective. We see an opportunity to get something, and even if we don’t really need it, by gosh, we’ll die trying (so much the better if it’s free).

Case in Point: Until stores started putting limits on certain high-demand items, people were hoarding things like masks and hand sanitizer, without realizing that a mask and hand sanitizer sitting on your shelf doesn’t protect you from COVID-19 nearly as well as that same mask and sanitizer being used by someone else. You know. So THEY don’t get YOU sick.

And all that food that people are starting to hoard? What makes anyone more entitled not to starve than someone else? Does the ability to access food and purchase in large quantities make a person more worthy of having food than someone who does not?

But tensions are high, times are uncertain, people are worried, and, yeah, I can understand panic shopping after you read articles about not having enough toilet paper or laundry detergent. At some point, that stuff is important.

But for those who have the least to fear – and in the world of academics, Harvard is that “who” – there is an opportunity to set an example, to step aside, and who knows? Maybe 87 coffee shops, or bakeries, or lawn care companies, or organic honey farms, or hand-made paper stores, or yoga studios, or auto service stations, or dog-walking businesses, or artisanal olive oil vendors, or custom bike shops, or exotic pet emporiums, or tattoo parlors, or WHATEVER, BECAUSE THAT’S THE AMERICAN DREAM, ISN’T IS? could have used that money to keep their doors open.

And you know, you would think Harvard would be all over that: What liberal New England educated East Coast socialist communist left wing sociopath like me does not regularly bemoan the cultural wasteland, the psychic fart bonnet, that is suburbia, with its big box stores and franchise food chains and cineplexes? There are no original ideas here, no literary salons or Algonquin Round Tables. This is where intellectual idealism goes to die, right next to a minivan and Weber gas grill. No one who ever graduated from Harvard ever wrote a scholarly work on the virtues of the suburbs, and every avant garde artiste, every cutting edge fashion designer, every beat poet or singer/songwriter or indie filmmaker worth his or her snotty Brooklyn address will tell you how they barely escaped the suburbs – thank god! before it was too late.

And what’s the ONLY thing that can save the suburbs?

Small businesses, that’s what. You know it. You’ve read it. You’ve heard it. Probably from someone with “Harvard” on their resume.

So, you would think Harvard would be embarrassed to even consider applying for those funds that Tim, the Guy Who Makes Vegan Muffins, and Tina, the Organic Butcher really, really need right now, but in Trump’s America, we no longer get embarrassed about anything, especially if we’re rich, and certainly not by anything as puritanical as the concept that greed is something to be avoided.

Maybe it’s time to stop telling kids, “study hard and you can go to Harvard! Work hard and you can become the President!”

Perhaps we should be saying instead, “study hard, and you can either attend a reasonably-priced institution of higher learning that will provide you with a solid education, or maybe a quality technical school to learn a trade such as plumbing or auto repair, because everyone has a broken car or a broken toilet at some point in their lives, and also, work hard, and you can be the owner of your own business, employe members of and contribute to the life of your community, and set a good example of character and leadership on a local level.”

And that’s all I have to say about that.

UPDATE: As of the afternoon, Harvard announced it would return all stimulus funds. Additionally – and this is critically important – HARVARD DID NOT APPLY FOR THESE FUNDS. They were automatically allocated for emergency relief for students impacted by COVID 19.

Aw, Harvard. I’m sorry. See? I told you I wasn’t Harvard Smart. But I am Mount Holyoke rigorous.

COVID 19 Diary – 4/19/20

I love taking apart vacuum cleaners.

I do.

Ever since I was very young, few things have given me greater satisfaction than taking apart a vacuum, cleaning out all the hair and gunk, wiping down the innards, and putting it back together, good as new.

I don’t mind saying I’m pretty darn good at it, too.

Had I not been able to pass the bar exam, I would likely have set up a nice little sew and vac shop somewhere and made $237.43 per week. It wouldn’t have paid for the Milanos, but boy, would I have been happy.

So it was with enormous delight that I, assisted by Mike OConnor, my favorite companion in all things, took on the steam cleaner.

We were victorious.

I should mention right about here that said steam cleaner was purchased in response to the chronic gastric condition that first befell our first Bernese Mountain Dog, Angus, some time around 2004 after eating half of a chocolate birthday cake. Later that evening, at approximately 2:30 a.m., Michael and I were awoken by perhaps the foulest smell ever encountered by those who do not live in a raw sewage drainage field.

Alas, poor Angus had showered the living room with liquid proof why chocolate and cake are not good foods for a dog. Have you ever seen dog crap on a drapery valance? Until that moment, neither had I.

In the days and weeks following The Night of the Shit Sprinkler, as it is now lovingly recalled in our house, we came to appreciate the need for deep carpet cleansing and thus came to invest in our dependable Hoover steam cleaner, Old Steamy, who served us faithfully for many years until (1) we finally got rid of all our rugs; and (2) Angus died. (Sad Face).

For many years thereafter, Old Steamy sat, unused and unappreciated, in the laundry room, collecting dust and serving as a permanent reminder that there was once a time when our house always stank of dog shit.

Then, just a few weeks ago, Kyle Svecz and Brittney Billman mentioned they had to steam clean the rugs in their apartment before moving out.

“Don’t rent a cleaner!” Michael and I crowed. “We have one you can use!”

Much like my Dad, who used to say, “aw, why’d you buy THAT? We have one of those in the basement!” Didn’t matter what “THAT” was. Could have been a salad spinner, could have been a nuclear centrifuge; according to my Dad, there was one in his basement.

But Kyle and Brittney are very polite, so they borrowed Old Steamy, and they pulled three or four decades of dirt out of the carpets that had probably never been cleaned before (and certainly not in the month prior to their move-in last January), and returned Old Steamy to us, and you could see it in his eyes…he felt…needed. He felt important. It was like the Velveteen Rabbit but sort of in reverse, or maybe not at all.

Except Old Steamy was looking really, really gross, and so it was that our odyssey to return him to his former glory began. Out came the screwdrivers! Out came the sponges! Out came the paper towels and brushes and cleaning solution!

We had our work cut out for us: Fifteen years of dried on, caked on, 100% genuine certified dog crap in every nook and cranny and corner and crevice and surface and gasket and slot. It took determination, grit, and elbow grease. It took a strong stomach and a resolute will. It took the love of an old Vac Girl.

We brought Old Steamy back to life that day, my friends, and I don’t mind telling you, well, we’re better for it. I’d like to think the world is a little better, too, or at least our little corner of it is.

And now you know.

COVID 19 Diary – 4/19/20

Memo to All Hospitals Everywhere:

The people featured in the photographs below know more about science than the CDC and your healthcare staff, and their right to shop at Sephora, eat at the Cheesecake Factory, and infect other people is more important than the health and well-being of your patients, medical staff, and support employees.

It would be helpful if someone could make a list of these people, with names and addresses.

So, when one of them gets sick and presents to your Emergency Department for care, by their actions they have authorized you to gently walk them to the exit and give them the name and address of one of their fellow Freedom Protestors, who will, no doubt, open their arms and home to render care.

COVID Diary – 4/18/20

So far, 700,000 Americans have been diagnosed with COVID 19. Since the first death 7 weeks ago on February 29, there have been 38,779 deaths. That’s roughly 800 per day.

Many who have died were otherwise healthy, relatively young people. Other people have had more mild bouts. The thing is, it’s hard to know whether, if you happen to get it, you’re going to have Premium Ultra Hi-Test COVID or COVID Lite. So, it’s probably best to try not to get it in the first place.

The CDC has done a pretty good job of telling us how to do that. We know that the virus is airborne and highly contagious. We know that people can be infected AND symptom-free. We know the virus can linger on most surfaces for a long time, meaning that being in foreign environments exposes us to endless opportunities for infection.

We also know that, in addition to washing our hands, wearing PPE, and sanitizing anything coming into our living spaces, pretty much the best way to not get sick is…

Wait for it…it’s gonna blow your mind…


Because if you do that as much as is humanly possible, you reduce the opportunities for that nasty little virus to come into your space and make you ill.

I know, I know. It’s complicated. It’s almost like you need a Ph.D. to understand the causality. Don’t hate me because I’m brilliant.

So, in order to stay well, all you have to do…all you have to do…is STAY THE FUCK AT HOME.

Perhaps because they have some understanding of the connection between people staying at home and people not getting infected, governors in 42 states have issued omnibus shutdown orders, and 3 have issued partial quarantine mandates. Because they listened to the CDC and thought it best if people would STAY THE FUCK AT HOME.

Now, some people can’t. They have to go to work, because their employers say so, and they desperately need money, because few people can last for more than a few weeks without a steady paycheck. I get that. It would be super cool if those employees were provided with proper PPE and were being paid at a hazard-rate, which is not the case for most, but I get that for some, including my husband, staying home is not an option.

For the health care workers and grocery store employees and mail carriers and truckers and people who are making sure there is food in the stores, water in our pipes, Netflix on our TVs and prescriptions being filled, please accept my deepest gratitude.

And, yeah, some of us have to go out from time to time to pick up food or run some essential errand or just to take a walk in the park for a change of scenery, and that’s fine, too, as long as we wear our masks, maintain our 6’ distance, and keep our visits to retail locations as brief as possible.

It’s called “honoring the social contract,” which I realize is a foreign concept to anyone who moved to this country after January 20, 2016.

But it’s no longer a thing, and I know this because there are actually people out there protesting those “stay at home” orders. They’re out there in Florida, Ohio and Michigan (where traffic actually blocked access to a hospital) demanding that state-mandated quarantine edicts be lifted. NOW.

One has to wonder what these people are thinking: Despite the initial skepticism of more conservative Americans as to how serious, and widespread, COVID 19 would turn out to be, few other than doctors who used to be on Oprah and Fox New commentators seem to doubt just how much of a threat it poses. We already know that in many parts of the country, healthcare for COVID 19 patients has been less than ideal, not because the providers are unqualified (far from it!) but because there’s just not enough – not enough doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, ventilators, beds, masks…you name it. Doesn’t it make sense that we would want to do everything we can to make sure that we keep the numbers as small as possible so that we don’t continue to overtax and already severely burdened system?

“Economic necessity” is a better answer, and I certainly don’t want to pooh-pooh such concerns, although shouldn’t we wonder that most of this country CAN’T miss more than ONE paycheck without facing financial disaster? Is that not concerning, especially in light of the steady stream of GOP tax cuts we have seen year after year, legislation that never helps the poor or middle class build savings and rarely leads to meaningful wage increases?

Do none of these protestors wonder why it is that they are in such dire financial shape? Sure, maybe they overspend and don’t follow a strict budget, but could it be that they live paycheck to paycheck because that’s the state of our economy under a GOP Administration – and always has been?

Or maybe it’s not economic, maybe it’s boredom. Maybe people are tired of sitting at home watching TV. They want to be able to go to Applebee’s and the movies and Old Navy, and to be able to hang out with all of their friends so while they bury their faces in their phones the entire time (you know it’s true), at least they won’t feel lonely. Or maybe they just love their jobs so much that they just can’t wait to get back to them.

But I think the real gist of all of the protests – and the Failing NYT backs me up on this – is that there is a segment of society that just doesn’t like being told what to do because they think they should have the unfettered freedom to be out and about, whenever and wherever they want, mingling and infecting and getting infected, because it’s their decision, and damnit, who is the state to tell them what they can and cannot do with their own bodies???

Which is pretty, pretty ironic when you consider that MOST protesters are GOP/pro-Trump, “pro-life” advocates who absolutely think the state has the right to tell SOME people – pregnant women, that is – what they can and cannot do with their own bodies, but I digress.

But yeah, how dare the government try to tell people what to do? That’s tyranny!!

Well, no, it’s not. The state can regulate a person’s behavior when it puts other people’s lives at risk, which is why free speech has certain limitations, such as the one that says you can’t scream “FIRE!” in a crowded movie house if there is not, in fact, an actual fire.

And the state can make you wear a motorcycle helmet, because it has an interest in not incurring the medical bills for an uninsured cyclist who French-kisses a telephone pole and ends up a quadriplegic.

So if the state would prefer that you stay at home watching reruns of “Ice Road Truckers” or “Marrying Millions” (both excellent choices) in your sweats, its interest in protecting the well-being of others, maximizing access to healthcare to those who cannot self-quarantine, and ending this goddamned, straight-from-hell, kick-me-in-my-dick epidemic as soon as is fucking possible kind of outweighs your interest in being able to gorge yourself on Blooming Onions and steak at Outback after getting your brows waxed, going to the Jojo Siwa concert, and buying new hand towels at Home Goods.

For fuck’s sake.

I’m lucky. I can do my job at home. I continue to earn a paycheck. Two of my 4 daughters are here. My cats and dogs are here. We have plenty of food and toilet paper, and we are healthy. I’m an introvert, and I crave time at home. I miss daughters 1 and 3, and my granddaughter, but I’ll survive. So maybe I just don’t get it.

But I have thought about it, and I have tried to figure it out, and I just don’t seem to get it, so maybe my FB friends can explain it to me.

Thank you.

Don’t Gimme No Sourdough Starter

I’m not an Amish Friendship Bread kinda girl.

Which means, if you give me some sort of yeasty mix that was handed down from someone’s great-great-grandmother 30 years ago, from a secret recipe, and you want me to ferment it, or add stuff to it, or maybe, I don’t know, watch porn with it, and then pass some of it along to five more people with handwritten instructions for how they have to do the same thing…

…oh, and then make some sort of unleavened bread which maybe Michael will eat one piece of just to be polite, then will go all moldy until someone throws it away…

…but then also KEEP some of the dough so I can hang onto it and continue to add to it and take it to out to lunch every so often and trim its toenails and clean out its closets until I DIE….



I’m not an Amish Friendship Bread kinda girl. Which means if you give me that goddamned brownish crap in a Ziplock?

I’m throwing it out, and I’m not gonna feel bad about it.

Let me say that I have nothing against the Amish, Friendship, or Bread. Don’t know a whole lot about the first except (1) what I saw in “Witness,” (2) they have a bad reputation in Pennsylvania for operating puppy mills; and (3) I once had to do research about what happens when one of their horse-buggies gets involved in a motor vehicle accident, but I forget what that is.

I love friendship, and I love my friends.

And bread. Gosh, how I love bread.

But I hate any “tradition” that requires me to prove the depth of my feeling and commitment through meaningless gestures (see my numerous posts as to my thoughts about Mother’s Day), and for the life of me, I see nothing “friendly” about giving someone a bag of goo that smells like feet (and, I can assure you, no Amish person ever made and called “bread”) and asking me to push it off on five other people, much like a chain letter, only more like mucous.

I know, I know. It’s meant to be fun, and to connect people to an everlasting network of those who all ate a baked good that derived from the same original batch of ingredients, thereby uniting us, young and old, black and white, Christian or Muslim or Jew, those who think Carol Baskin killed her first husband and those who think he escaped to Costa Rica to live with a much younger woman.

I’m just saying, there are ways to be friendly and connect with people that are a lot less demanding.

And that’s what pisses me off. I don’t like people telling me how to be their friend, or insisting that I prove it, because although I probably really love them a lot, maybe the day I’m supposed to add the flour to the bread or or repost whatever you put on FB today (you know, that thing that only a TRUE friend will read and repost) is the day my dog crapped all over my kitchen floor, or work was crazy, or one of my kids needed me, or my husband said, “let’s go for a walk.”

So, no Amish Friendship Bread for me. I do, however, accept donuts, cinnamon rolls, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, cake, ice cream sandwiches, sea salt caramels, and of course, Dark Chocolate Milanos.

COVID 19 Diary – 4/13/2020

So now our president is retweeting posts with the hashtag #FireFauci.

Because the good doctor admitted that a swifter and more vigorous response by our country to COVID 19 might have saved lives.

It may or may not be true, but before we look objectively at the evidence to determine whether or not it is, by all means, let’s fire Dr. Fauci.

If it IS true, call it FAKE NEWS in the hope that when the moron in chief shows his supporters some rhinoceros poop, they’ll believe it’s actually a baby chick.

For those who are okay with a chief executive taking no responsibility for the actions of his organization, regardless of the issue, ever ever ever, times infinity…they sure picked a dandy.

They expect pretty much everyone else in the entire universe to be held accountable for their screw-ups…we ALL do…but not this guy, the one who is gonna make them rich and magically turn their wives into Slovenian supermodels. Hasn’t happened yet, but hey, there’s still time.

And if he keeps screaming, “FAKE NEWS!!!” and firing the people who speak up and say, “you’re not telling the truth,” or, “there’s more to the story,” or, “ let’s see what science has to say,” well, then rhinoceros poop turns into little baby chicks and no one has to use their brain and think for themselves.

Sometimes you need some rhinoceros poop, people.

Wouldn’t Want to Make You Uncomfortable

Someone recently told me that they don’t like to talk or think about politics because it makes them uncomfortable.

How nice it must be to live a life so privileged that politics plays no role in one’s day to day existence.

You know what that means.

And when we are privileged, we often don’t realize that others aren’t. We may even be such assholes that we deny that such privilege even exists.

Not having to think about politics, or who gets elected, or how one’s life will be impacted thereby, means being so insulated from poverty, oppression, inequality, and violence as to be virtually living in a pretty little dollhouse, or an ivory tower, protected from the reality of what so many souls on the planet daily cannot escape, and so, have to endure.

One of the greatest blessings of my life has been the gift of a child with disabilities, and a child who is bisexual, because these young women do face prejudice, inequality, and oppression, and as their mother, that means I’ve had a front row seat to what it looks like when you’re not a typically-abled, straight, white, Christian male.

Which in turn means that unless I am an asshole, I don’t get to sit back and wallow in my enormous privilege, and I am forced to acknowledge the unfairness that other oppressed populations suffer.

And I can be a total asshole, believe me, but not because I’m too precious to sully myself by expressing opinions and taking positions that – Mary, Mother of God, pray for me – SOMETIMES MAKE PEOPLE UNCOMFORTABLE.

But I sort of think maybe some people could stand to be a little uncomfortable, and I’m not gonna stop, so consider yourselves warned.

COVID 19 Diary – 4/11/20

Ted Cruz recently referred to the Democratic Governor of Kentucky (and Dems who support him), who has threatened to record the license plates of those violating the state’s “stay at home” order to attend Easter Sunday services, as a Nazi who opposes Religious freedom.

As if that’s what the “stay at home” edict, and efforts to enforce it, is intended to do – to keep people from worshiping. Is there a church out there that hasn’t figured out how to live-stream its services?

No, there isn’t. It’s not about freedom of religion, or freedom of assembly, it’s about avoiding large gatherings of people, some of whom may be sick and don’t know it.

Which Cruz, who voluntarily self-quarantined after a possible exposure, knows full well.

But there are those who say, “it’s my right to worship at my church. God will protect me. If I get sick, what’s it to you?”

Well, it may be your right to worship, but what about the rights of the people you’re taking to that church who have no choice in the matter, like your kids?

And it may be your choice to worship, but what about your responsibility to your fellow man not to infect them, which you might, if you’re sick and don’t know it?

And that thing about God protecting you? Well, I guess you don’t ever need to go to the doctor, or wear a seatbelt, or buy a fire extinguisher, or wear a life jacket, ever again.

And what’s it to anyone else if you get sick? Well, it’s the well-being of a health care worker. A bed in an ICU. A ventilator that someone else might need.

So, if you must go to church on Easter Sunday – and the only reason I can think that watching from home isn’t good enough for your pastor is that if you’re home, his collection plate may not be as full as it would be if his flock is in the building and he can berate them into digging deep so he can pay for his private jet and mansion and limo – then promise me this:

When you get sick, you’ll demonstrate the same faith in God’s ability to heal you without need for attention from the medical professionals who told you to stay home in the first place.

And Ted? Try to imagine that the Governor of Kentucky may actually have the welfare of his people – including those on the front lines, in hospitals, who are caring for the sick – in mind. Comparing him to a regime that slaughtered 12 million in the name of racial purity is in such poor taste, even coming from the likes of you.