Category Archives: COVID-19 Diary

Stay Away From Facebook Comments

I need to stay away from making Facebook comments about the pandemic. Yesterday a pastor I follow on social media suggested the new vaccine mandates here in Manitoba barring unvaccinated people from many indoor spaces and the reinstatement of the mask requirement, will add bitterness to the divide between people who support those initiatives and those who don’t. The pastor suggested it is probably best not to enter into Facebook discussions about those topics and I agree. I would have to say that anytime I have done so I have regretted it later and have often taken my comments down or modified them.

I think one of the reasons masking and vaccination will generate even more bitterness and passionate discussion in the next while is because children remain the largest group of unvaccinated Canadians and adults have strong feelings about what is best for them.

Vaccination and masking protocols are simply too contentious and I have found arguing in Facebook comments only fans the flames and doesn’t change anyone’s minds. Don’t get me wrong within the last few days I have been sorely tempted to make a comment on the Facebook pages of people who have a different opinion than I do, but most of the time I have managed not to, and perhaps writing this blog post will hold me accountable to that.

Of course, response to mandatory government directives is a topic that needs to be discussed, and historians and psychologists, and social scientists will no doubt be doing research projects for decades to come as they try to figure out why some people had so much vaccine and mask hesitancy during the pandemic and others were so wholeheartedly enthusiastic about vaccines and masks.

Photo by Chokniti Khongchum on Pexels.com

I am glad too for the information I receive via newspapers and magazines from credible journalists and people who are experienced and respected in their fields. But the pandemic response is probably best not discussed in Facebook comments at least by people like me who aren’t experts in epidemiology or infectious diseases or social behavior or human rights law.

Some things lend themselves well to Facebook comments. A recent post of mine about the use of the old Eaton’s catalog, for example, was shared in several Facebook groups and I’ve loved reading and responding to comments about all the different ways people remember their families using the old catalogs.

On a Facebook page for Mennonite writers, I am part of an interesting discussion about how to write in the voice of people of different ages. These kinds of Facebook comment exchanges are helpful and interesting.

But at this point personal exchanges about the best approach to ending the pandemic seem to serve little purpose. It may be something we want to discuss again on social media in the future, but for right now I think it is best to show restraint. I hope writing this post will help to keep me accountable for doing just that.

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Thank You Puzzle

My latest puzzle is a tribute to all the workers who have helped us maintain a sense of normalcy during the pandemic. I thought maybe in summer I wouldn’t be as dependent on puzzles for my mental well being but I still seem to need them. I bought this one at McNally Robinson Booksellers and it was interesting to do and just the right level of difficulty for me. This is puzzle #24 done during the pandemic.

The puzzle recognizes the contributions of scientists and teachers.

The work of farmers, food preparation professionals, and grocery store personnel have kept us nourished.

Our indebtedness to journalists and the people who delivered our packages and mail

The way firefighters offered protection and safety during the pandemic, other professionals kept the world of transportation moving, environmentalists and naturalists continued to care for the environment, and needed construction work was completed.

And how would we have managed without health care workers and the cleaning staff people who kept our schools and hospitals and other public places sanitary and safe?

Doing my Thank You puzzle was an exercise in gratitude and reflection and as always when I puzzle it provided me with a sense of calm and quiet.

Other posts………

Lagom- Just Right

Puzzling Jane Austen

Puzzling With My Sister

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Is it Time for Covidnomics?

David Frum writing in the latest issue of The Atlantic says Covidnomics is the way out of our current health and economic crisis.  Money talks and we need to start leveraging its power to get people vaccinated and the world back on the road to fiscal recovery.  Frum says each one of us has financial power and we need to use it.  

If we regularly patronize certain retailers or restaurants, we need to call and ask if they have vaccination requirements for staff and customers. If they don’t, we should inform them we will take our business elsewhere. If we order a taxi, we should ask the driver for vaccination proof before we get in. If they don’t have it, we send them on their way.  Frum says there are cruise ships that require vaccination proof and others that don’t.  He urges readers to boycott the latter.

Frum suggests North American businesses need to start clamping down on their employees and customers and demand they be vaccinated. European governments who’ve ‘gotten tough’ are seeing their vaccinations rates rise dramatically.  Employers and consumers need to follow suit. 

With COVID-19 cases spreading quickly in Florida the Disney Corporation has issued a mandate that all their employees need to be vaccinated. Current employees are being given 60 days to do so and all new hires will have to show proof of vaccination.  I suspect it won’t be long before other companies head in the same direction.  If your boss says you aren’t allowed into your workplace without being vaccinated and consequently you lose wages and can’t pay your bills, you may change your mind about vaccination. 

Right now, in Manitoba requests by businesses to implement compulsory vaccination policies are handled on a case-by-case basis. There needs to be proof that vaccination is necessary for the employee to do their job and that their refusal to vaccinate will put the health of their co-workers, clients, or customers at risk. I suspect many employers are scared of legal battles if they institute mandatory vaccination policies. That’s unfortunate and we need to think of ways to remove that threat.

We will forever be indebted to health care workers for their contributions during the pandemic but they need to lose their jobs if they refuse to get vaccinated.

I was happy to hear yesterday that the Prime Minister is considering mandatory vaccination for all federal employees. A vaccine mandate for health care workers is also vital. Maybe the threat of losing their job and their income will get these people into line for vaccines. It is ludicrous that they can be unvaccinated while caring for the most vulnerable in our society. The thirty faith-based personal care homes in Manitoba have requested the provincial government issue such a vaccination mandate but so far the government has failed to respond.

I wish it worked to tug at the heartstrings of unvaccinated people, to remind them they are keeping seniors isolated and preventing their care homes from allowing any sort of outings, hugs, or family unmasked visitation.

I wish the unvaccinated could get to know all the vaccinated folks who are waiting in pain and anxiety for surgical procedures that have been canceled because of their selfish decision not to be vaccinated. How tragic that those who could have easily prevented getting sick are using hospital beds others desperately need. 

Most of those who choose not to vaccinate appear to have hardened their hearts towards their fellow human beings.  Perhaps the only way to get them to care about others is to start putting pressure on their pocketbooks.   

As many restrictions for unvaccinated people are lifted tomorrow in our province it may be more important than ever for us to practice some Covidnomics.

Other posts………

Two Opinions on Vaccines

The Unvaccinated Hairdresser

My Polio Vaccine

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Together Again

A week ago I was able to take my father’s younger sister to visit him. I don’t think they had been together in person for almost a year. I was wondering if Dad would know my aunt since she needed to wear a mask and a plastic face covering to go into his room at the personal care home where he lives. Dad has forgotten the names of many of his family members. But he recognized his sister the moment he saw her, called out her name, teared up, and reached out to hug her.

My Dad and his sisters looking at photos from their childhood

It was very heartwarming to see. My Dad lives in the past now, the time of his childhood which was spent in the little village of Gnadenthal in southern Manitoba. My aunt knew this and had brought along an envelope of photos of their family farm, their extended family members, and scenes from their childhood. This delighted my Dad and it was so great to watch the two siblings talking about times past in Low German the first language for both of them.

My father has often asked me in the last months why only my sister and I come to visit him. Where is the rest of his family? Of course, I explain about COVID-19 and how the rules at the home where he is living prevent other visits. His dementia makes a pandemic something difficult to understand and so he often questions me about his missing family members.

I am so glad that things are opening up a bit. In the last while two of my Dad’s sisters, my brother and one of Dad’s cousins have been able to visit. Although he may not remember their visits a few days later, at the moment when they happen they bring him much joy and I am grateful for that.

My Dad and his sister visiting on the balcony overlooking the river at his personal care home

The pandemic has taken a cruel, cruel toll on the oldest members of society and most will never recover fully, but I am glad restrictions are gradually easing to allow for more family contact. Now I am looking forward to the day when we will be able to take Dad out for drives and visits to our homes and a chance to reconnect with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Hopefully, enough Manitobans will heed the call to be vaccinated so that will be possible sooner rather than later.

Other posts………

Siblings More Important As You Grow Older

Barns in My Family

Aren’t They Holdable?

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary, Family

Two Memes- Two Opinions on Vaccination

Both of these memes were posted by people from Manitoba I connect with on Facebook. I think they represent the varying views people in our province have about vaccination.

The first meme definitely advocates for the rights of those who don’t wish to receive a vaccination. The message is that if unvaccinated people can’t access the services of government-supported businesses they shouldn’t have to pay taxes.

And I guess they have a point since casinos are operated by a Crown Corporation of the province of Manitoba, the Blue Bombers have received government money for the construction and repairs to their stadium and many restaurants and theatres have been the recipients of government funding to help keep them in business during the pandemic. All these services are being restricted at least somewhat for unvaccinated people in our province.

However, with 90% or more of the patient load in Manitoba critical care wards being composed of people who aren’t vaccinated, it would seem the cost of their increased presence and thus expense to our medical system would probably balance out the price of their loss of services at the football stadium or casino.

The second meme posted by a Manitoban definitely advocates for a belief in science which the unvaccinated seem unwilling to accept. Could this at least partially be the result of a long campaign by former prime minister Stephen Harper, who although he supports vaccines, did so much to discredit the scientific community in Canada, by closing science libraries, making drastic cuts to scientific research, and censoring scientists so they couldn’t freely share their work with the public?

Could it be the result of having an American president who knew little about science but believed he was more of an expert than the scientists in his own country? I realize there are a substantial number of Manitobans who were Trump fans. Has that influenced their ideas about vaccinations? The impact of journalism outlets like Fox News, and social media platforms that haven’t always regulated misinformation the way they should have, can help explain why some people have developed a low opinion of the science of vaccines. I know that education, political preferences, and one’s choice of social media can greatly influence whether you believe the scientists advocating for vaccinations.

I mentioned that both memes in this post come from Manitobans I know, and yet they represent very different points of view. I think by now almost everyone is personally aware of someone opposed to vaccines or someone who simply refuses to have one, and that can make things difficult. I have heard from many people that this disparity of opinion about vaccinations is causing all kinds of friction between friends, family members, neighbors, church members, and colleagues.

My word for the year is acceptance and I know I need to try and accept and understand people whose views are so very different from mine, whose decisions about vaccination have the potential to cause so much harm to themselves and others. But I admit doing that is hard. Very hard!

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Turbulent Times

Nearly 900 wildfires are burning in Canada right now.

It’s easy to let panic get the upper hand when we consider what is going on in the world. Rapidly transmitted variants of COVID-19 are continuing to spread and cause illness and death. It is scary to think about how many people won’t believe scientific evidence and refuse to get a miraculous vaccine that could save their lives. Wildfires and heatwaves are stark reminders of an impending environmental catastrophe that climatologists have been warning us about for decades. A whole string of events has provided proof that racism is still alive and well in North America. What turbulent times we live in.

President Kennedy was assassinated in November of 1963

I am working on a new novel set in the 1960s. Those were my childhood and teen years. Possible topics I might cover are the Cuban missile crisis that easily could have ended in an all-out nuclear war. Americans witnessed the assassinations of President John F.Kennedy, his Attorney General brother Robert Kennedy and civil rights leaders Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Then there were the events that would lead up to the FLQ crisis in Canada, the escalation of the war in Vietnam, and the construction of the Berlin Wall in Germany. Violent race riots occurred regularly in the United States and the sixties scoop was going on here in Canada. Thousands of Indigenous children were being taken from their homes by welfare workers and placed with mostly non-Indigenous families.  What a turbulent time!

My parents survived the turbulent years of the great depression and World War II.

My grandparents survived the turbulence of the Russian Revolution and famine and World War I.

We are almost always living in turbulent times. Perhaps our current times seem more turbulent than in the past because of the way we have such comprehensive coverage of them in the media now.

It is important to keep our perspective and remember that turbulent as our times may seem those who came before us have survived turbulent times and we will too.

Other posts…………

They Wore Masks Too

The Berlin Wall in Toronto

A Where Were You Moment

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary, Reflections

The Unvaccinated Hair Stylist

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

I had gone to the same hairstylist at the same salon for quite a number of years before the pandemic. I really liked the place and the stylist. This past week I called for an appointment and asked the receptionist if she could tell me if my stylist was fully vaccinated. She said she couldn’t provide that information.

Since I hadn’t had my hair professionally cut or colored for such a long time I was told to come in for a consultation before making an appointment. I did. That gave me the opportunity to ask my stylist directly if she had been vaccinated. She said she’d had COVID and so she had natural immunity.

I figured I needed to do some research to see if that was true but went ahead and booked an appointment for the following week so I’d have a spot reserved. I learned from doing some reading online that even if you have had COVID and have recovered, epidemiologists say it is still important you get vaccinated to protect yourself and others.

A few hours later I got a text asking me to rate my consultation experience at the hair salon and make a comment. So I did. I said I’d like to visit a salon where I could be assured that all the clients and staff were fully vaccinated. The salon owner called me almost immediately and said she agreed with me but legally she could not force her staff to be vaccinated or ask her clients whether they were.

I told her that I was fully vaccinated, but that I spent time with a grandchild who was not, and so I wanted to be extra careful. The owner said she understood and offered to book me with another stylist who she knew for sure would be fully vaccinated. I told her I would think about it.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

The next morning I canceled my appointment. I just didn’t want to spend several hours inside a building with an unknown number of unvaccinated people. My feelings about that might change once a larger percentage of people in my province are fully vaccinated, but until then I’m going to err on the side of caution.

I think people have every right not to get vaccinated, but I also think the general public has a right to know who isn’t vaccinated in the places where they do business, so they can protect themselves and their families. I do applaud my stylist for telling me the truth about her vaccination status but I wish I would have had the courage to ask her if she realizes that almost all the patients who are taking up ICU beds in our hospitals are unvaccinated and that they are preventing people who are waiting for surgeries and other important medical procedures from having them. I wish I had asked her if she understands that until everyone is vaccinated businesses like the one where she works can’t get back to their pre-pandemic prosperity.

In the meantime does anyone know a good hair salon where everyone is vaccinated? If not, my hair will just have to get a wee bit longer before it meets the shears and gets a professional color job.

Other posts……….

Should there be Mandatory Vaccines For Long Term Care Workers?

Why People Don’t Trust Scientists

The Tsunami and the Pandemic

My Polio Vaccines

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They Wore Masks Too

Kids going to school during the dust bowl

COVID -19 isn’t the first time children in Canada have had to wear masks. The children in the photo above are setting off to school in the 1930s when a series of severe dust storms and long periods of drought caused great hardship. This era has come to be known as the Dust Bowl. Although the pandemic has been a difficult time for Canadian kids the Dust Bowl was much worse in many ways.

If a dust storm was advancing everyone tried to stay inside and if they had to go out they wore masks because people could choke to death if their lungs filled up with dust. If there were any cracks in the walls or floors of a house the dirt and sand would find their way inside and into food and onto furniture. Children sometimes slept in clothes and beds gritty with sand and dirt.

Family walking in a dust storm

Kids continually had red irritated eyes from the dust and some contracted dust pneumonia when too much dust got into their lungs. Babies had wet clothes placed over their mouths and noses to keep dust from choking them. Children often went hungry because no crops or produce could be grown and stores were forced to close as were schools, sometimes for weeks at a time.

School children covering their mouths and faces during a dust storm in the 1930s

There was no weather forecasting so people just had to watch the skies and many parents didn’t send their kids to classes because they were scared they would be caught in a dust storm going to and from school. If children were at school when a dust storm started their classroom could suddenly grow dark like it was nighttime and teachers had to light lanterns in the middle of the day so children could see to read and write. Their classroom could quickly fill with a kind of dusty fog. If they thought it was safe enough children and teachers would walk home with towels over their faces, but sometimes students were kept at school overnight to make sure they didn’t lose their way walking home or choke on the dust.

If children couldn’t go to school and had to stay inside there were no televisions, video games, or even many books to entertain them. Most children lived on farms and they also witnessed their parents’ distress about their devastated crops and gardens. They watched the family livestock die due to a lack of food and water.

An abandoned Dust Bowl farm.

Countless children became homeless as crops failures led to their families losing their houses and property. Sometimes the roof of a home would literally collapse under the weight of the sand and dirt on top of it. On the Canadian prairies, some 250,000 families simply abandoned their homesteads. Some families wandered nomadically looking for a new place in a different province to make a home and have a chance to start over.

Migrating family during the Dust Bowl

The pandemic has been very hard on children there is no question about that, but we may take at least a little solace in the fact that children from another century experienced much greater hardships and survived, going on to build meaningful lives for themselves and their families.

Other posts……….

An Inspiration For Our Time

My Grandmother’s Childhood

The Remarkables

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Filed under Canada, COVID-19 Diary, History

Snitches Get Stitches

‘Snitches get stitches’ is a term being bandied about in Manitoba as people discuss the current government restrictions designed to stop the spread of COVID-19.  The person who mentioned the term to me said in certain neighbourhoods in our province, residents feel free to violate lockdown protocols because there is a ‘snitches get stitches’ ethos in the community.  

Spying on neighbours illustration from the India Times.

I had to look the phrase up in the urban dictionary to learn it has its roots in gang culture where it means that snitches -people who report on others to the police or government agencies, will receive stitches- some kind of abuse usually of a physical nature, for betraying them.  I suspect that ‘snitches get stitches’ may not actually be happening in Manitoba neighbourhoods, but it is a dramatic way to describe the prevailing attitude of the folks living in some communities. If you report neighbours to the authorities for disregarding the limits imposed by the lockdown you will damage your reputation and your actions may be subject to public criticism. 

A friend on social media passed on a post about why you shouldn’t report neighbours to the police if you notice them violating government COVID-19 regulations. It reminded people that it is your neighbours and not the government who will come to your aid when you need to borrow a garden tool or a cup of sugar.  They keep an eye on your property while you vacation and their children are probably classmates with yours. Is it more important to maintain a cordial relationship with your neighbours than to follow government regulations albeit ones with the intent of stopping the spread of COVID-19?

So, what would I do if my neighbour wasn’t following the mandated health regulations? I know what I should do.  I shouldn’t call the authorities.  I should talk to them myself. I should have the courage to let my neighbour know their violations of the COVID-19 regulations make me uncomfortable, and I should explain why. If my neighbour and I have had a cordial relationship in the past and I was a good neighbour before the pandemic, odds are they will listen respectfully as I voice my uneasiness about their actions. 

We may have to text our neighbours about our concerns or talk with them on the phone.

I think I’d need to be personal in my approach indicating that my request for them to follow regulations stems from worry for a family member who is an essential worker, or a friend who is immune-compromised or a child who has not yet been able to receive a vaccination. I might point out how rapidly variants are infecting people. A face -to -face conversation could be awkward, if not against lockdown rules, so I might opt to do it by phone or even leave a letter on their front porch along with a plate of home baking. I would start by stating some reasons why I appreciate having them for a neighbour and then voice my concern. 

Sometimes a neighbour may just need a helping hand in order not to break restriction rules

Someone told me about their neighbour who was violating health mandates, but they knew it was because of a family medical emergency and the neighbour’s lack of financial resources. They decided initiating a discussion about regulations would only add to their neighbour’s stress. In an instance like that offering a meal, some money, or connections to community agencies that could provide support and help, is undoubtedly the preferable course of action. 

I think there are times when we will have to report a neighbour because we have tried other avenues and they continue to violate regulations in a way that puts the health of our community in jeopardy.  But hopefully, it can saved as our last resort. 

Other posts……..

Aren’t They Holdable?

Drawing on Past Experiences To Quell Anger

The Long Year

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The Missing Piece

Can you spot the missing piece?

I have become pretty much addicted to jigsaw puzzles during the pandemic. I get a little panicky if there isn’t one spread out on my dining room table for me to retreat to when I need to get away from the computer screen and rest my brain or just zone out for a bit. My son told me not long ago that if I need to be addicted to something jigsaw puzzles is a good choice.

For pandemic puzzle #22 I chose a summer beach landscape. Perhaps it was a kind of wishful selection, hoping that scenes such as the one depicted in the puzzle might actually be possible by July. This was a brand new puzzle and so when I finished it on Monday and one piece was missing I was pretty upset.

I looked high and low for the piece, lifting rugs, moving chairs and peering under couches. How could I have lost a piece? My husband Dave had just vacuumed and I accused him of sucking up my missing piece. He was affronted. He said he would have noticed if he had done something like that.

When the pandemic is over I plan to donate my puzzles to the Thrift Store and I knew I would feel guilty about giving away a puzzle with a missing piece. Where could it be?

Yesterday morning I put on my bathrobe after I got out of bed and for some reason I slipped my hand into the bathrobe pocket. And there………… was the missing piece! How in the world had it landed up in my pocket? Was I sitting at the table in my bathrobe and it somehow slipped in? That didn’t seem possible. Had I picked it up off the floor at some point and absentmindedly put it in my pocket? I had no idea, but I was overjoyed to put the final piece into its place and complete my puzzle.

American novelist Luanne Rice writes that……. “Missing pieces do more than complete a puzzle. They fill an empty space.”

In my case the quote would have to be turned around to read, “Missing pieces do more than fill an empty space. They complete a puzzle.”

Other posts……..

A Puzzling Speech in Parliament

Hugo Bartel’s Puzzles

Puzzling A Family Tradition

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